South Africans living abroad have been descending on high commissions and various embassies around the world where they will cast their votes today.
About 16 240 registered South Africans abroad are expected to cast their ballots, in a process to be supervised by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) in 124 missions.
Those who are momentarily outside the country on holiday, a business trip, attending a tertiary institution, on an educational visit or participating in an international sports will also be allowed to vote.
All the voting stations opened at 7am and will close at 5pm at the local time of the country.
The largest turnout is expected in London, where approximately 7 472 expatriates are expected to cast their ballots today.
Early morning reports indicated that long queues had already formed outside the South African High Commission in London, where the IEC’s chief electoral officer, Pansy Tlakula, also arrived to encourage voters.
Most of the South Africans in the queue had taken leave from work in order to vote, or had been granted a leave day, or “voting day” by employers.
Many of the London-based nationals celebrated their democracy by wearing South African national sport team jerseys and carrying South African flags.
In other parts of the world, voting in Australia, which is several hours ahead of South Africa, is almost completed. About 1 230 registered South Africans showed up to cast their vote.
In Dubai, 900 South Africans living and working in the country are also voting today. In Wellington, New Zealand, over 400 South Africans are expected to vote today.
The Hague in the Netherlands reported 378 registered voters, while Dublin, Ireland, is expecting at least 360 South Africans to vote.
A low turn out is expected in the Middle East, as only 75 people registered to vote at the South African Embassy in Ra’anana, and only one in Ramallah in the West Bank.
A possible contributing factor to the low number of voters could be that today is the last day of the Jewish festival of Pass Over and observant Jews are not allowed to work, let alone vote on that day.
Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, accompanied by a South African delegation, will cast her vote in Geneva, Switzerland later today.
Dlamini-Zuma will not be in the country when local voters head for the voting stations.
She will be attending the UN World Conference Against Racism, Xenophobia and related Intolerances.
This will be a follow up to the first Racism conference held in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, in 2003.
Ensuring a safe vote
In a bid to ensure that the overseas votes remain safe and secure, the IEC has set up a two-envelop system.
Each voter will receive a ballot paper and will vote for their political party of choice.
Once the voting has been completed, the ballot paper will be placed in an unmarked envelope and sealed. The marked envelope will then be placed in another envelope with the voter’s name, ID number and voter district number.
The envelopes are then placed in a ballot box, which will be sealed and flown to South Africa.
On Election Day, 22 April the details on the marked envelope will be checked to verify that the voter is indeed registered to vote and checked for any irregularities. The vote will then be taken out and placed with other votes that have been cast locally.
The IEC says this system will ensure that all overseas votes are anonymous when the final ballots are counted.
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