Polls kick off with Saffas Down Under

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IOL  Ballots DONE AP File photo: Schalk van Zuydam

Johannesburg - As the sun rose across the Pacific, South Africans gathered to cast their ballots in this year’s elections.

They were the first voters of election 2014.

Saffas in New Zealand kicked off the voting and were followed by Australia. Later on Wednesday, as the sun heads across the Atlantic, South African expats in Europe will make their mark.

Mapone Maake, first secretary in the SA High Commission office in New Zealand, said 30 people had cast their ballots shortly after the commission’s office opened for voting at 7am.

“We have already informed the IEC things are going well. People are coming in and voting.”

Maake was not sure how many of the over 400 registered voters in New Zealand would turn up. “But we expect all those people who had applied to vote and were approved by the IEC to come and cast their ballots.”

The IEC said more than 26 400 people had successfully applied to vote abroad. It listed London with 9 863 registered voters and Canberra with 1 243 as the cities with the highest number of registered voters. In New York there were 604, while Doha and Dublin had 557 and 466 registered voters.

Sapa reported that expatriates could vote provided they had applied for a special vote. Online applications were due within 15 days of the proclamation of the election, as per a joint statement issued by the department and the IEC on January 7.

“The department is satisfied that it has made the necessary information and infrastructure available for the IEC to carry out its constitutional mandate of managing the electoral process,” Clayson Monyela said.

The Department of International Relations and Co-Operation had circulated the relevant information from the IEC regarding the vote to South Africa’s foreign missions, which would in turn be passed on to South African citizens.

Monyela also said elections overseas were running smoothly and there had not been any reports of problems. Countries like Australia and New Zealand had already finished with the elections, without glitches.

“Reports are that those that are registered turned up in large numbers.”

There are 100 000 South Africans living in Australia, but only 1 243 are registered to vote. The majority live in Perth and other cities such as Melbourne and Sydney. However, the voting station is in another city, Canberra.

The IEC’s Kate Bapela said the distance between the cities where the majority of South Africans lived and where the voting station was could have influenced that number.

And while there had been reports that there were not enough voting stations abroad, Bapela said there was nothing they could do about that as it was out of their hands.

“When you are outside South Africa, the only place you can vote at is at the embassy.

“The IEC has no mandate to set many voting stations out of SA, we can’t create our own embassies,” she said.

The Star

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