Wed, Jan 28, 2009 - Page 4 News List

South African expatriates fight for right to vote


Opposition parties want South African courts to change the electoral act in a bid to give millions of expatriates the right to vote in upcoming elections.

The main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) and smaller Freedom Front Plus are challenging the act that states only people on business trips, studying abroad or taking part in international sports events can have a special vote.

“The right to vote is a fundamental right. The denial of the right to vote to the vast majority of South Africans was central to the struggle against apartheid — a struggle in which thousands of South Africans lost their lives,” DA executive chairman James Selfe said on Monday.

The party’s application is on behalf of Roy Tipper, a South African teaching English in South Korea who plans to return home.

The Homecoming Revolution, which encourages expat South Africans to return home to address the country’s skills shortage, estimated that some 2 million expatriates would be eligible to vote if the act were amended.

“There is a renewed interest in politics,” a consultant with the organization said.

The DA has filed papers in the Cape high court, while local media reported on Monday that Freedom Front Plus also lodged an application in the Pretoria high court on Monday on behalf of Willem Richter, a teacher working in Britain.

South Africa’s elections, expected as early as April, are likely to be the most fiercely contested in years with a breakaway from the ruling African National Congress hoping to dent the party’s two-thirds majority.

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