Party pushes for overseas vote

2009-02-24 00:00

Cape Town — The Democratic Alliance (DA) has called on Home Affairs Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula to immediately withdraw her department’s application to oppose a DA application to the Constitutional Court to allow registered South African voters living abroad to vote in the upcoming election.

DA Federal Council chairman James Selfe said yesterday the department’s application is unnecessary and a waste of taxpayers’ money against a legitimate case.

“The right to vote is a fundamental right of all South Africans, irrespective of whether they are currently living in the country or not. This right is even enshrined in our Constitution. So to attempt to deny some South Africans the opportunity to exercise this right simply because they are living abroad goes against the spirit of our Constitution,’’ Selfe said.

The DA filed papers in the Cape High Court earlier this year challenging the constitutionality of the Electoral Act.

The Freedom Front Plus also filed papers (in the Pretoria High Court) last month in support of Willem Richter, a teacher in the United Kingdom, who is challenging the constitutionality of a provision in the act. Other parties, including the civil rights initiative AfriForum, are also lobbying strongly on the issue.

The parties claim that Section 33(1)(e) of the Electoral Act provides for SA citizens who are temporarily abroad — for purposes of a holiday, a business trip, attending a tertiary institution, or participating in an international sports event — to vote in national and provincial elections by special vote. They argue that the section should be extended to include citizens who are living abroad, many of whom intend to return to the country.

Selfe said the DA will continue to pursue the right of all registered South African voters to vote.

“The minister should dedicate her department’s resources towards fixing the administrative shortcomings, which are paralysing service delivery in Home Affairs offices throughout the country instead of squandering taxpayers’ money on legal fees contesting the obvious fact that registered South Africans living abroad have a right to vote.

“She must also focus of ensuring that all South Africans who need identity documents to vote in the upcoming election have their documents in time for voting day and that voters are not stopped from voting because her department has classified them as deceased,” Selfe said.

“It is ironic that Minister Mapisa-Nqakula has moved swiftly to oppose the DA’s application, while she continues to drag her feet in tackling problems in her department such as enormous backlogs … ”

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