24 April 2009
The government has acknowledged the important role that South Africans abroad played in voting in the country’s 2009 general election.
Government spokesperson Themba Maseko said in a statement this week that it was significant that over 16 000 South Africans living abroad had voted at SA embassies in a special vote last week.
Almost half of these – over 7 000 – voted in London, where the entire South African High Commission was mobilised last Wednesday to ensure that voting went smoothly.
By casting their votes, Maseko said, South Africans abroad had strengthened their bond with their compatriots at home, and given substance to the Constitutional Court ruling that South Africans abroad had the right to vote.
“The enthusiasm of those who queued outside South Africa House throughout the day bodes well for creating the atmosphere for more South Africans to return and make a contribution through deploying their skills in nation-building or creating more jobs,” Maseko added.
DA gets overseas vote
Over 9 000 overseas votes had been counted at the Independent Electoral Commission’s (IEC’s) results centre in Pretoria by Thursday afternoon, with the Democratic Alliance (DA) winning 7 581 of these votes, followed by the newly formed Congress of the People (Cope) with 918 votes and the African National Congress (ANC) with 673 votes.
Commenting on the results, DA leader Helen Zille said there were “many skilled, passionate people abroad” who wanted to return home, adding that the way to get them to return was to improve the quality of and eradicate crime in the country.
The party that instituted the legal action that won expatriates the right to vote, the Freedom Front Plus, only managed to clinch 270 of the overseas votes. “I’m a bit disappointed, because we fought for it,” party leader Pieter Mulder told BuaNews.
‘Brain-bank’ of South Africans abroad
Maseko said the enthusiasm of the expats who voted last week also boded well for building a “brain-bank” of South Africans living abroad to help improve the country’s image abroad, and to bring investment, knowledge and skills back into the country.
Maseko said that not-for-profit organisation the Homecoming Revolution, and the International Marketing Council’s Global South Africans network, were doing much to connect South Africans living abroad with their home country.
“The Homecoming Revolution has done excellent work over the past five years or so in creating such a climate and proactively connecting South Africans abroad with companies at home seeking skills,” Maseko said.
The recently formed Global South Africans network, active in the US and UK, aims to build a global network of skilled and influential South Africans who can help the country attract foreign direct investment.