Should Expats be able to vote?

With an election imminent, as with any political party in any country, each of the political parties in SA is working out how best to maximise their chances of not losing too heavily to the ANC. Apart from the ANC, of course. Their tactic seems to be to not give a toss what happens because they’re going to win anyway.

Such is democracy.

Botox Queen Helen Zille’s DA (the Desperate Alternative) and Pieter Mulder’s FF+ (which is actually a political party and not a remedy for period pain) have launched separate court actions in Cape Town and Pretoria respectively to try and change the rules so that South Africans living overseas can vote in the upcoming ballot. And, since these are “white” parties and the majority of expats also fall neatly into that racial demographic, presumably for them.
One would imagine they’ve done their sums and worked out that the expat vote would be a “good thing” for their numbers, anyway. That would be a mighty own goal otherwise. Jacob Zuma would kill himself laughing.
Maybe that’s the plan.

So, should South Africans living and working abroad be allowed to vote in the SA elections?

No. They shouldn’t.

I should be allowed to vote here though. I’m a permanent resident here. I’ve lived here for five years. Paid taxes here for five years. So give me their vote. I promise to use it wisely (if not quite as they might have done).
The ironic thing is that I can still vote in the UK, despite not living there or having even stepped on British soil for over two years. I choose not to though. I think that I gave up that privilege when I made the decision to come and live here in Cape Town. And so it should be with those who have chosen to leave Cape Town – or wherever and head off to the UK – or wherever.

Don’t get me wrong. People like Gabrielle Johannes (does she mean renounced and not denounced, by the way?), currently annoying people in South West London on a two-year working visa, are not the ones I’m talking about. If you are overseas “temporarily” – like on a 2-year visa – then I’m all for your rights. Although, there’s always the counter argument that you knew the rules when you left the country and you still chose to go. Why moan now?

But if that also means that Frikkie van der Merwe who left SA in – let’s choose a year at random here – say 1994, also has the right to vote this year, then something has gone very wrong with the system.
And if that means that you renounce your South African citizenship (or at least that aspect of it) when you choose to move abroad – well, so be it. I have seen too many SA expats who rely solely on dodgy news sites with dodgy reporters and dodgy agendas for their information about South Africa. That those ill-informed individuals should get the opportunity to influence the future of the country is plain wrong.

As it is, whether Helen and Pieter’s court cases are successful or not will almost certainly have very little bearing on the outcome of the election. But it’s nice that they have suddenly realised that they want to campaign for the disenfranchised masses overseas. In an election year.

Who’d have thunk it?

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  • At the risk of laboring the point: I don’t want to make a direct comparison between convicts and people living abroad. Of course not! But as a moral consideration, the effect cannot be ignored. Here you have someone, whilst not forfeiting their human rights to dignity and the like, incarcerated because of crimes against a body politic of civil society, with the measure of punishment being their “removal” from civil society. That certainly implies certain civic consequences.

    On the other hand you have a “migrant worker” (I dare say), still a citizen of the country with a definitive right of participation in civic society because of their citizenship, who indeed have “freedom of movement” because of choice, thus exercised, and joyfully so because of the obvious lack of incarceration.

    Both instances, surely, bring with it certain conditions.

    Saying that, I do see your point. I am eligible to vote in the Dutch elections (which in itself is quite a nightmarish endeavor), and have done so on an occasion or two. Admittedly, it was more guess work than voting, for I am not there to fully comprehend the dynamics. There certainly is a point to be made about voting whilst in the country.

    My analogy about color does not imply that votes are taken away of granted because of the color of skin – it is in reference to the past where a group were marginalized and not allow to vote because of that. Are we now not again marginalizing expats?

    Incidentally, I am all for giving YOU the vote. If an Austrian can become governor, so 6K can become Mayor – stranger things have happened 😉

    Emil´s last blog post was: Register … and Vote! (Note: 6000 miles… is not responsible for the content of external internet sites)

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  • I as an Expat do not believe you haven the right to vote untill you have become naturalised and hold a SA passport
    I had to do the same in Finland and forfitted my UK Passport
    Golod luck and great subject
    Greg