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LONDON — About 30,000 South Africans living abroad got the chance to cast their votes at embassies, high commissions and consulates over the weekend. In London just under 10,000 people registered to vote and despite the fact that it was a cold, blustery day long queues formed in front of the South African embassy on Trafalgar Square from early in the morning before the polls opened. It is a small fraction of the number of Saffers living in the United Kingdom, which is estimated to be anywhere between 400,000 and a million. The Independent Electoral Commission did simplify the process of registering for an overseas vote and extended the hours for polling, but many overseas voters felt left out, because the voting centres were only in the major cities. In the United Kingdom, the only place that voters could bring out their choice was in London at the High Commission on Trafalgar Square, which meant voters in areas such as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland had to travel far to vote. While Many South Africans tweeted pictures of the marks on their thumbs to show their excitement about being able to vote in the May elections, others expressed disappointment at not being able to make it to the election as they live a day trip away from the voting centre in London. – Linda van Tilburg
BizNews spoke to some of the people just after they cast their ballots at the South African embassy which overlooks Trafalgar Square, the very place that many of the anti-apartheid rallies and the Free Mandela campaigns were held before the country’s first elections in 1994. What was clear is that South African voters living or working in the United Kingdom are overwhelmingly Democratic Alliance supporters.
How did the process go? Do you think it was well organised?
Extremely well organised. I’m very proud of the IEC.
May I ask you who you voted for and why?
Well, I didn’t vote for any crooks. I voted for the opposition.
I don’t believe that the ANC did not do anything. Actually, I’m a former ANC member but they didn’t do anything. I’m just coming back from SA three-weeks ago and I was so disappointed to see the state that my hometown is in today.
What is your hometown, may I ask?
It’s in the Free State. So, I was so disappointed to see how my hometown is today, under the leadership of the ANC so, I believe that if we give DA an opportunity, they will do something different.
We came all the way from the West-Midlands in Warwick so, it took us about an hour and a half to get here.
Also read: Ugly, dirty, misleading – Elections 2019
So, have you lived here for a long time?
Only five-months but I believe you need to vote. When we lived in Chicago I also voted in Chicago, I think it was 2010 or 2011.
Am I allowed to ask who?
Can you tell me why?
Because we want to see change. We’re tired of the same old stuff and at least they’ll get majority seats and they can help them.
Can you see a big difference in Cape Town?
I was actually saying to the girls now so, there’ve been three South Africans living here and none of them came to vote together, and I was saying, when I woke up this morning, to my whole family in SA. I said, ‘today we’re going to vote.’ I got a little bit choked up and emotional and I said, there is a part of you that has to appreciate ;not just the fact that you’re going to get onto a bus and you’re going to travel a couple of bus stops, and you’re going to walk maybe a block or two and you’re going to sign a piece of paper. But there has to be a moment where you stop and you think, how privileged am I to have had the people that came before me, who fought for me to have the right to vote. Because not that many years ago I wouldn’t have been eligible to vote and I think it’s not just a democratic right, it’s a human right, as a person to be able to have a say in what happens in your country. We didn’t have that before. As women, and of people of colour. I’m not of colour but I think we just have to appreciate that. I think to have the sense that you have an opportunity to say something. There are countries in the world that don’t have that and they don’t offer that to their citizens. It’s a huge privilege.
Did you vote for the same party as the time before or did you change your views?
I didn’t change my views. I voted for the same party before. Am I allowed to say who I voted for?
I don’t have any problem telling you that I voted for the DA. Not because I think the DA is doing a superior job. Not because I think the ANC is doing a terrible job. I don’t think the ANC is doing the best job it could do and that’s actually what motivated my vote. I think our voting, if you look at the ballot paper it’s just overwhelming; how many people you can vote for.
It was long, wasn’t it, yes.
Unbelievably long and I just think that for me, I think if you think as a human being ;if you know you’re in a race and the nearest person behind you is just behind you, you’ll run faster because it will push you to do more and be better and try harder because you know there’s a chance of being defeated. I think if we can unite in an opposition vote to the ANC, it will push the ANC to be better. I still think the ANC will win and that is the way it is. I’m not a hater. I don’t think the ANC is terrible and useless. I’m not racist and therefore, don’t want them to win. I just think whoever we can vote for that can help them to push themselves to be better would be great. I think the biggest, next majority is either the EFF, who I don’t necessarily stand by their policies, or the DA so, that’s why I decided to vote for the DA.
Although I could not find any supporters who indicated that they may be going for one of the new parties such as the ZACP or South African Capitalist Party represented by a purple cow, some of the voters who did not want to reveal who they voted for, indicated that they were voting against the ANC…
The same as you always vote or…?
It’s my first year ever.
Do you mind if I ask who you voted for or not?
No, it’s confidential.
Why are you voting for a different party?
Just what happened in the last recent months. I saw programs. I looked at certain parties’ manifestos and I just then decided no, that’s not the party I’m going to vote for again. There are many better parties out there. I’d rather not say who I voted for but I would say, generally, my vote just really counted towards change with the political parties that we see and just be able to familiarise ourselves, as a younger generation with the political parties.
I found a lone voice, a millennial who said that she liked Economic Freedom Front Leader Julius Malema because he is a disruptor.
So, I voted for the EFF. Mostly because I think our country needs a strong opposition, [and I think they’re, at the moment, the best opposition.
So, you like what Julius Malema is doing?
I like some of the things that he stands for. I think that there are some more controversial things that they haven’t been able to explain themselves out of; none of the political parties, I think, are actually perfect or that I’m fully aligned with. But I think it was the closest one that I could vote for more strategically.
So, as a millennial, do you like the fact that he’s a disrupter, Malema?
I do like that. I like the fact that since they’ve come into Parliament a lot of things are brought to the surface, a lot of issues. I think , they more are being engaged, in terms of the political discussion so, definitely, yes.
The ANC presence in London was colourful with flags and outfits depicting the faces of ANC-leaders including Nelson Mandela and Winnie Mandela, and many were staunch supporters of their movement, which they believe will turn things around in South Africa.
The DA is too white for SA so, if DA is too white for SA what are we telling ourselves? Are we going back to 1964? We can’t do that.
The ANC is the right person, right now, at the moment. They’ve made mistakes. They are sorry for their mistakes. The power is, we change their mistakes. As the ANC, we change it.
Do you believe Ramaphosa is going to get rid of the corruption?
I think he will. He is working on it. He might not completely get rid of it because he’s that is difficult, but he will deal with that and the next president will deal with it even further. In the long run, SA won’t have that problem. It’s a process. It’s a journey that SA has to do. With that in mind, what it means is very simple. We have to allow Ramaphosa to deal with the issues. When that’s allowed then the future won’t have that thing. Right now, it’s about allowing the peace in SA. The peace in SA is important.
Why am I voting ANC…? Oh, because of the history. Because of everything that I believe the fact that I’m here is because of the ANC. When Mandela was released in 1994, that’s the time when I went to a multi-racial school. So, it’s just opened up a lot of paths and I mean, it’s got a lot of faults right now, just like any other party.
Can they fix it do you think?
You know what, I think it’s still young. We’re talking about 20-years or 22-years, I’m not sure how long. There’s still hope. For me, there’s still hope. It can’t be fixed within two decades. There’s still a lot to be done and I’ve got hope that things will be fixed in the future. It might not happen today. It might not happen tomorrow. But I believe and I’m positive that it will happen.
The ANC’s chairperson in the United Kingdom, Jabu Sibeko conceded that the DA will probably win a majority of the votes in London.
I think people have confidence, including myself in Ramaphosa because he’s actually wanting to change things and state that all those issues need to be addressed. How can I tackle corruption and that’s what Ramaphosa is saying? That whether you’re a senior politician or whether you’re a person on the ground ,the law will take its course. They’ve got a Commission now, which is investigating corruption which is called the Zondo Commission so, it’s getting the big ones and the low ones so I think we are going to see some element of fairness so that’s why I’m more opportunistic.
With only around 9,000 votes out of the 30,000 cast in the United Kingdom, the overseas vote is not likely to make a major difference in the overall standing of parties as you need about 30,000 votes for one seat in Parliament. The UK chairperson of the DA, Justin Adams responded to criticism that DA support in the UK comes largely from the White expats.
I would disagree with that. I will challenge that because we have and although this is probably a more, white constituency than represented by the population of SA. We have people across all race groups that are voting for the DA because they see what good governance can look like.
So, what do you think the DA is going to do, from the expats?
In terms of the expat’s votes?
I think it will be predominantly DA. The numbers, if I remember correctly in 2014 were about 80% to 85% DA.
This is Linda van Tilburg in London for BizNews.
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