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I hope the DA’s decision to approach the Western Cape High Court for the expats to be accorded a provincial vote is motivated by constitutional principles.
No South African, wherever s/he is, should be denied the right to vote.
But the motive for such application should be scrutinised to avoid changing the law for wrong reasons.
In the 2009 Richter case, in which a South African teacher in London wanted to cast his vote, the Freedom Front Plus and other parties joined as the friends of the court.
The party argued that it “had a direct interest in the proceedings, in particular because many of its members have, over the past years, spent time abroad and these members wish to be able to exercise their right to vote”.
The expats turned out not to be FF+ members because the party’s electoral performance was dismal. The FF+ had 0.89 percent in the 2004 elections and this dropped to 0.83 percent in 2009.
IFP, the other party that joined the Richter case, was also punished at the polls, dropping from 6.9 percent in 2004 to 4.5 percent.
Therefore, the DA’s move could backfire by not yielding the desired electoral results.
It happened before.
The party was once hurt by its floor-crossing initiative, losing members to the ANC.
The DA and other opposition parties later wished for the scrapping of the policy, questioning its moral and constitutional rationale.
This was precisely because the motive was not principled but opportunistic.
The DA, and other minority parties – who are also calling for the scrapping of the current proportional representation system – are most likely to bleed from their much desired constituency-based electoral system.
Constitutional principles, and not partisan expediency, should be the most considered factor.
Constitutional Court Judge Kate O’Regan, in the Richter case, granted the expats a vote but, due to time constraint, was unable to rule on the provincial ballot.
Pansy Tlakula, then chief electoral officer of IEC, argued that “an important reason for the commission’s view lies in the fact that those who vote in voting districts other than those in which they are registered under section 24A (special) on polling day may also not vote in provincial elections if the voting district in which they seek to vote is in a province different to the one in which they are registered”.
O’Regan questioned why the IEC was unable to make a special arrangement for such special provincial votes to be counted at a central point to avoid logistical nightmares.
She said it was not clear why “the votes had to be counted in the voting district in which the voter was registered”.
If government officials abroad could be allowed to cast both the national and provincial votes, why can’t expats have the same rights?
And if the courts rule that expats be granted a provincial vote outside their provinces, why must they have more rights than South Africans at home?
Most South Africans, due to the residual apartheid migration policies, work and vote outside their home provinces.
But can we afford it, and is it practical? - Sunday Independent