Voting abroad – a good idea?

No.

With Election Day less than a week away, yesterday was the day on which South Africans living, working or visiting overseas were able to make their vote count.
It’s been a contentious issue, with the DA and VF+ camapigning vigourously for the right of overseas Saffas to vote, then having to suffer the indignity of a tiny number that actually bothered to register to do so (7,472 out the approximately 600,000 in the UK).

While I respect that it is the Constitutional right of those overseas to have their say, I don’t agree with it. The information that is disseminated out from SA is often overly negative, incorrect and highly subjective and unless you are willing to really dig deep to find out the facts, I can’t see how you can make an informed, valid choice on the issues at hand. However, when I tried to point this out, I was told in no uncertain terms by commentors that of course they knew exactly what was going on in SA and they couldn’t wait to have their say. I was wrong, apparently. Ha!

To cut a long story short, a great fanfare was made (especially in London) about the “massive numbers” of those knowledgable people who turned out to make their democratic mark. And here’s the front page photo from The Times this morning showing just a few of those people (who know all about South Africa), queuing to vote:

20090415175041expats_matt_dunham_ap
Knowledgable voters wait to vote

Erm… ladies, I know you know all there is to know about SA and everything, but isn’t that flag a bit… upside down?

NPA-like, I rest my case.

35 thoughts on “Voting abroad – a good idea?

  1. ROFL – 6K – you are going to hold the blonde poppie up to us as an example as to why SAffers abroad should not be allowed to vote?! Tsk tsk!

  2. The information that is disseminated out from SA is often overly negative, incorrect and highly subjective and unless you are willing to really dig deep to find out the facts, I can’t see how you can make an informed, valid choice on the issues at hand.

    Conversely, that same information is often positive. Just look harder.

    While I respect that it is the Constitutional right of those overseas to have their say, I don’t agree with it.

    You might not agree with it, but 7k voters are better than zero voters. Even if one person voted, it’s democracy shining through.

    And that’s how it should be.

    You’ve made such a noise about it. Other than an inconsequential amount from your income tax, it doesn’t affect you in any way. So why do you even care?

  3. Does this mean that people who live in South Africa know more about how South Africa is ran? In my experience, 80% of people who vote in rural South Africa have no knowledge of 90% of the “problems” in South Africa.

    nonsensical´s last blog post was: Sailing (Note: 6000 miles… is not responsible for the content of external internet sites)

  4. Diva > Not my fault she’s all uninformed and stoopid.

    CuppaCoffee > Of course it affects me – I live here! Incidentally, I’m not allowed to vote. So while they don’t pay SA tax and are lining their pockets over in the affluent North, I don’t even get a say, despite handing over vast sums to SARS every year for the ANC to spend.
    I explained my views fully in the Jan 27th post I linked to.

    Nons > How does the saying go? “Two Misinformed don’t make a right”? At least those rural voters are living here and experiencing SA on a daily basis. That’s got to be of some value.

  5. Of course it affects me – I live here!

    How does it affect you? You’ve made such a big noise about how a measly few thousand votes will have little to no affect on SA’s future.

    Furthermore, so do thousands of South Africans living overseas live here too. They might be there for any number of reasons (like business, vacation, bar tending, tertiary studies, etc), and are unable to fly back to vote.

    It’s not your place to judge why they’re overseas. And it’s certainly not your place to show them the middle finger.

    Similarly, I could be equally happy that you’re not allowed to vote because this is not your country, and you poms have done enough damage to South Africa.

  6. Are you trying to be inflammatory?

    Most people are ignorant an ill-informed. But whether you’ve popped out the country for a while, or live in a rural bubble, you still have as much of a right to determine your country’s future.

    Not everyone who lives overseas is white and racist.

    And the use of that photograph to prove your point is very Daily Mail-ish.

  7. CuppaCoffee > I like to think that I bring benefit to this lovely country. And if you note the point that I made in that earlier post, I’m referring to those who have chosen to go and live permanently overseas – not those studying or holidaying (ROFL at your bar-tending comment!!) when I say that they should forfeit their right to vote if they live overseas. (People like me, in fact).

    I do think that there is a degree of unfairness here too though, when people turn their backs on SA are allowed to have a say in its affairs, while those of us (and here I do include myself) who are working to make this country better don’t get a chance.

    OL > You’re being sarcastic, aren’t you? 😉

    AdWiz > Nope. Just expressing my views. As I say – if you’re on your hols or business or even on a 2-year visa – FINE – VOTE. But if you’ve gone to live in Aus because you got fed up with living in SA (for whatever reason) then no – I think you should give up that right.

    I thought the photo summed things up nicely. And don’t ever compare this site to the Daily Mail. Ever. Thanks.

  8. OK, so here’s my revolutionary plan. Or counter-revolutionary plan. Whatever.

    And I’m documenting this on 6000 miles… so that when someone else comes up with the idea, I can show them that I had it first.

    If you choose to move abroad, for whatever reason then you forfeit your right to vote EXCEPT in the next national election.

    i.e. You get to vote overseas in one election if you choose to leave the country. That would mean that (give or take) you could have been away from SA for 0-5 years, but 5 years as a maximum. I think that if you have left SA for more than 5 years, you should be classed as permanently abroad and therefore relinquish your voting right.

    Good idea, eh?

  9. You are right – “Two Misinformed don’t make a right”, but I’d rather have any vote than have people who don’t care at all.

    Must admit, first thought when a spotted the photo: “I wouldn’t be seen dead in SA rugby jersey in Trafalgar Square”.

    nonsensical´s last blog post was: Sailing (Note: 6000 miles… is not responsible for the content of external internet sites)

  10. Nons > Sadly, 99% (well, 98.76%) of Saffas in the UK didn’t care enough to even register to vote.

    As for the rugby jersey comment – nah! Support your country – especially when you are going to do something so very patriotic!

  11. Bla bla bla. If you’re living abroad, and have a South African passport, you should be – and are – allowed to vote. Unless you go and individually screen every individual for their motivations for living abroad, you have no right to judge and throw a blanket ruling over them in a draconian fashion.

    Thankfully, the Constitution trumps your opinion, 6000.

    FAIL.

  12. CuppaCoffee > As I said in the original post – what the constitution says, goes. And as I have said several times now, I agree that the constitution gives people the right to vote if they are overseas, I just think that it should be changed before the next election.
    But how embarrassing, when just 1% of people take up their right to vote. You argue that “that is democracy shining through” – cloudy day, then? I think it’s shameful. It merely demonstrates the level of uniformed, uninterested people out there. (98.25% of the South Africans in the UK).

    The 5-year/1 vote idea would eliminate that. People would be anxious to take up their one chance to vote if they were planning to return to SA, thus they would (hopefully) make an informed choice when voting. And of course, anyone paying taxes in SA (above a certain threshold) would be eligible to vote in further elections, because they are supporting the country. Those who have chosen to leave SA have up to a 9 year window to return and vote. Surely long enough for anyone to make up their mind as to where the want to live.

    It’s a decent compromise, if you are willing to open your mind a little.

  13. But how embarrassing, when just 1% of people take up their right to vote. You argue that “that is democracy in action” – I think it’s shameful. It merely demonstrates the level of uniformed, uninterested people out there. (98.25% of the South Africans in the UK).

    It is a bit embarrassing, yes. But the ANC’s 2/3 majority combined with useless opposition parties is just as embarrassing.

    But embarrassment has nothing to do with it. Marketing and education do. Along with better planning and fewer last minute amendments.

    It’s simple. Locals and expats carrying a SA passport can vote every election. The moment they no longer have their passport is the moment they can no longer vote.

  14. CuppaCoffee> “It’s simple. Locals and expats carrying a SA passport can vote every election. The moment they no longer have their passport is the moment they can no longer vote.”
    Then that is what needs to change, IMO. Not that their passport expires – merely their eligibility to vote in a country they only call “home” by virtue of a little book with a photo in it.

    But for sure, I agree they could have organised this time (a lot) better. That SA nationals were arriving at SA House in London yesterday to do normal business and were asking what was happening is a demonstration of that. How much that would have upped the numbers, given that the lack of organisation caused a hell of a lot of publicity, I don’t know.

  15. Then that is what needs to change, IMO. Not that their passport expires – merely their eligibility to vote in a country they only call “home” by virtue of a little book with a photo in it.

    Why does it bother you so much? Honestly. Who throws a shoe? You fight like a woman.

    Home is where your heart is.

    Not where you’re located geographically.

  16. CuppaCoffee > It bothers me because I dislike people voting when they have no interest.
    I rarely throw shoes. That’s merely a fad after that Baghdad press conference.

    Home is where your heart is? Legally… no.

  17. If I’m living in Toronto for whatever reason, but still have a SA passport, that doesn’t mean that Toronto is my “home”. It’s merely a geographical location.

    The glaring flaw with your proposal is that it’s premised by an anecdotal assumption that you already know the motivations and interests of each and every expat even though you’ve done no surveys or polls with any of them.

  18. CuppaCoffee > Mere semantics. When I left the lab this evening, I told my colleagues I was going home, yet here I am not on board a flight to the UK. Do the math.

    I don’t need to know the interests and motivation of the expats involved to institute the 5 years/1 vote plan. The tool used to measure their intentions would be the length of time they choose to stay away from SA. Overseas for more than the span between two elections? No vote. Simple as.

    I was thinking about this idea as I wasn’t heading to the airport tonight, and the more I think about it, the better it is. I might even suggest it to JZ when I see him in Mzoli’s on the weekend.

  19. Guess what? It isn’t going to happen. Because the Constitution trumps you. So do carry on bantering. No one cares.

    FAIL.

  20. Hilarious.

    Maybe 99% didn’t vote because they recognize the absurdity you point out or they’ve shifted allegiances, not because everyone who immigrates is clearly doff and couldn’t figure out how to vote. You don’t really know why people vote anymore than why they don’t, right?

    As a non citizen who talked to citizens of all sorts in all locations I can assure you, no one really knows what’s going on in SA. Don’t worry, no one really knows whats going on in most countries! If knowledge were required to vote, well, 2% turn out would seem like a bounty. The difference between everywhere else and SA from my experience is that despite having the normal level of democratically desirable knowledge (low), residents of the country are delightfully overtly political and generally pretty clear about which side of any issue the fall on. There’s nothing like the follow up question to “do you want a beer” being “and how do you feel about your BEE ranking?”

    And it’s why I love the place, maybe more than my home.

    Bless 6k. Bless.

  21. Change the constitution, so that only SA citizens resident in SA on the day of the election have the right to vote. Those going overseas for short periods eg holidays or business should be entitled to a special vote before they go, for the rest tough. ANC may be able to do this fairly soon.

  22. CuppaCoffee > Guess what – it isn’t going to happen… YET. But I never claimed that this website was anything more than my opinion. You choose to read, you should really accept that.

    jj > Because of its background and (recent) history, this country is far more politically aware than anywhere else I know, certainly. And I completely agree with the point that braai-talk can, quite acceptably to all present, suddenly go onto subjects political which might be considered high-brow or intellectual ground anywhere else in the world.
    Indeed – isn’t that what we’re doing here? This is just a blog, albeit a damn good one, but we’re not discussing trivial stuff, we’re discussing constitutional affairs. How cool is that?
    Maybe we’ll do some trivial stuff a little later, like AA or something.

    Stan > See – that’s the other end of the argument. But I think that rules out too many people who deserve to have a say in who runs the country.

  23. As you’ve said 6k, this is all opinion – so here’s mine. You are tainting all of us expats with the same brush, and that’s incredibly judgemental. You’ve got no idea why any of us are over here, and a lot of South Africans still at home automatically assume its because we are fed up with our country and’running away’. In any other country we would be seen as people wanting to explore and expand our horizons.

    I came over to London on a 2 year working holiday visa, to do a bit of work to pay back student loans, and to travel. But, being South African it takes a lot more effort to travel than it does for anyone else. So, I hadn’t done all of my travelling in those 2 years, so I made a plan to stay longer. With the amount of travelling I want to do, I might not even get it all done in 5 years, but when I am done, I will come home. So, according to your 1vote/5years things – I wouldn’t be allowed to vote because I went travelling? What nonsense.

    And regarding us not knowing what is going on back home – I probably know more about politics back home now than I did when I was at home, voting in the last elections. I have an invested interest in making sure I keep myself up to date with the news back home etc, because I am fully aware that I’m not living in it daily. But, I most definitely did make an educated vote on Wednesday, and I am definitely sure that the sun came out that day with our ‘democracy shining through’…

  24. Janelle > Thanks for the comment. And yes, perhaps I am guilty of tarring (and feathering) with the same brush, to a degree. But that’s just another reason the 5 year/1 vote plan would be beneficial. For me, there HAS to be a cut-off point somewhere. Otherwise, you could have people who haven’t lived in SA for a foolish number of years having a say in the way the country is run. How can that be right?
    I think that if you are out of the country for more than 5 years (although lest we forget, under my plan, you could be out for almost 10 years and still not lose your vote) you should be classed as having moved away. I’m sorry, but 5 years is enough time to “travel”. This planet really isn’t that big. And the argument that it’s difficult to travel from SA cuts little ice: the southern hemisphere is accessible far more quickly from Jo’burg as it is from London. That’s half the world sorted already. As for the money aspect – your move overseas means that you are not supporting the SA economy in the same way as if you were living here.

    Jacques > Aren’t you? Sounds like a FAIL to me.

  25. That photo is so … eh … Zapiro-like *right back at you* 😆

    It seems your gripe is not really with the expats or voters overseas, but rather the fact that you are unhappy having to pay SARS, and not being allowed to vote in return. I find that a good point.

    Emil´s last blog post was: Who remembers the Sinclair ZX-81? (Note: 6000 miles… is not responsible for the content of external internet sites)

  26. Emil > Actually, that’s really just a secondary issue for me.
    I think that the expat thing is of great concern. Almost like citizens of other countries having a say in your daily affairs.
    Look how annoyed people were about the whole Chinese influence on the Dalai Lama.
    It’s not so dissimilar.

  27. One vote for being a South African Citizen, no matter where you are
    Plus another vote for every R20 000 you contribute to the states coffers – the more you pay, the more say you have.
    You only relinquish your right to vote once you have left this country and gave up your SA citizenship.

    THAT would make sense to me.

  28. Catherine -> Agree. Good idea.

    Expats rule! and take action as they are leaving the doomed doff south africa. so why would i want to vote for a sinking ship anyway (and seeing that 80% of the voters have no idea what they are voting for)…..

    figures. doff saffas.

  29. Nick – Thanks for your incisive and timely comment. I do agree that people who think your way should leave SA. It does make it so much nicer for the rest of us.

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