The entrance to Parliament in Cape Town. Photo: Michael Walker

Parliament, Cape Town - Political parties told the DA on Tuesday that its pending court bid to secure South Africans living abroad a provincial vote in the 2014 elections was premature and probably doomed.

The African National Congress challenged the official opposition to seek first to resolve the heated debate on the issue in the home affairs portfolio committee, which is processing the Electoral Amendment Bill.

Ruling party MP Andre Gaum said that so far, the Democratic Alliance had failed to make concrete proposals on dealing with the practical problems which would arise if the bill were rewritten to allow provincial votes to be cast abroad.

He demanded to know how it would be determined in which province an expatriate should vote, in particular one who had never been registered on the post-apartheid voters' roll.

DA MP Masizole Mnqasela said according to African custom it was evident that one hailed from the birthplace of one's elders, and that this should therefore determine for which provincial legislature South Africans abroad should cast their ballots.

Gaum responded: “That is a brave effort, but it is the Achille's heel of the Democratic Alliance's argument, and I don't think it will stand up in any court of law.”

Cope's Graham McIntosh had harsher words. He accused the DA of blackmail after Mnqasela suggested that if the issue were favourably resolved in the committee, the party might no longer have to resort to a legal challenge.

“That is outrageous. The DA is holding a pistol to the head of this committee,” McIntosh said.

The bill gives effect to the Constitutional Court ruling that South Africans living abroad have the right to vote in next year's election.

The ruling came in response to a Freedom Front Plus application filed on the eve of the 2009 elections.

The bill gives expatriates only the right to vote for the National Assembly.

The DA is adamant that this should be extended to the provincial ballot.

The opposition party runs the Western Cape. Gradually wresting power from the ANC on a local and provincial level to show that it can govern more efficiently, is part of its stated political strategy.

Sapa