IEC says foreign voting ran smoothly despite hiccups in London

South Africans living in London have come out in their numbers to cast their votes in the 2024 Elections. Picture: X/Adam Habib

South Africans living in London have come out in their numbers to cast their votes in the 2024 Elections. Picture: X/Adam Habib

Published May 22, 2024


While overseas voting was completed over the weekend, it was not all smooth sailing as some South African voters in London claimed officials turned them away over a change in voting dates which they were unaware of, before making a U-turn and letting them vote.

This comes as special votes were cast in 111 South African missions across the world to facilitate voting by around 78 000 citizens on May 17 and 18.

The IEC on Monday said the mission in London was the only voting station that remained open on Sunday, May 19, in order to cater for the more than 24 000 voters who were registered and approved to vote at that mission.

London was among the largest international voting stations with 24 535 eligible voters, followed by The Hague (6 659), Canberra (3 674), Dubai (3 266), Dublin (3 040) and Wellington (2 292), among others.

The IEC in a statement had said “overall, special voting abroad proceeded smoothly with no major incidents. This is a testament to the meticulous logistics, planning and execution of those plans across all missions”.

However, according to a South African citizen in London, this was not the case as they were unaware about a change in the voting date, with many people showing up on Friday, allegedly to be turned away.

Kieran Rennie said: “When I arrived at South Africa House on Friday May 17 at approximately 9.30am, I was met with a gathering of people inside the reception of the High Commission having a stern conversation with one of the IEC representatives.

This IEC representative stated that the voting date of May 17 was only for a select handful of countries – London’s available dates had been changed – and that the voting days communicated for London were now May 18 and 19. He stated that out of the 25 000+ registered voters, emails were sent to about 10 000 people to update them of the new dates.

“An additional frustration, on top of being told we could not vote, was the IEC representative’s arrogance and insensitivity to the hundreds of voters expected on the day. We were all told we could not vote, regardless of what was officially communicated on the IEC website, and that we should go home and return the following day. People had travelled from as far as Edinburgh and were being turned away. Elderly folks in their 80s were being told to go home.”

Rennie said it was ultimately their determination, citing the violation of their rights as well as “a contravention of the ethos and legal requirements for a free and fair election”, which seemed to have led to a turn of events on the day.

“One of the ladies told this gentleman that she would camp out all day taking the names, ID numbers and contact details of each voter they turned away. She said she would use the info to update the IEC, the political parties and news outlets on the corruption and incompetence we experienced.

“This seemed to turn the tide; they seemed to realise they may have made an error. Staff appeared, tables and booths were laid out, and voting began. But we have concerns. This sudden u-turn, which we are all grateful for, poses further questions. Numerous voters were sent home before we were eventually allowed to vote. What happens to these lost votes?”

The IEC did not respond to questions on the incident by deadline on Tuesday.

Cape Times