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05 December 2023

Registration ends today for South Africans in UAE to vote in presidential election

By Majorie van Leijen

For the first time in history, all South Africans living or traveling abroad will be able to vote in the presidential elections taking place in South Africa this year.

The decision was made with the passing of the Electoral Amendment Act 2013, giving all South African citizens the right to register and vote abroad in national elections.

Although South African expats were first able to vote abroad in the 2009 presidential elections, this only applied to those expats who were registered. This year, registration abroad has been made possible, enabling all South Africans not present in the country during the voting to participate in the elections.

“If you voted before, this means you are registered. This amendment applies to the people who have never voted before, and who are not in South Africa to register. These people will now have the option of registering abroad,” said Mpetjane Kgaogelo Lekgoro, Ambassador of South Africa to the UAE.

To be eligible for the vote, South African expats in the UAE must register before February 7. Registration is possible at the South African Embassy, High Commission, or Consulate-General. It is not possible to register or vote at honorary consulates, liaison offices or any other types of foreign missions, the Electoral Commission of South Africa clarified.

“You need to take both your green, bar-coded South African ID book; smartcard ID; or valid Temporary Identity Certificate, and your South African passport or temporary passport. Both documents must be valid, and no other identity documents can be accepted,” reads the instruction.

After the deadline for registration passed, the wait is for the announcement of the election date by the President of South Africa. Once this announcement has been made, registered voters will have to submit a VEC10 notification online within 15 days, notifying the applicant’s intention to vote abroad and indicating at which Embassy, High Commission or Consulate-General the vote will be casted. The template will be available at www.elections.org.za<https://www.elections.org.za>.

Bonita Carr, a South African resident in Dubai, registered at the South African Consulate in Dubai last week. “I was happy to learn that I could register to vote. I went to the consulate with my passport and green ID book, the process took under 10 minutes.

“I am happy to do my civic duty and cast my vote in the upcoming elections,” she added. “It gives me a better sense of connection with what is going on at home. I feel like I finally have a voice, instead of being forced to watch from the sidelines as my country's leadership is decided.

“We encourage all South Africans to exercise their right to vote,” said Lekgoro. “This is the legacy that Nelson Mandela left us -- the right to vote. It is a right you have, and you may practice it.”

The UAE hosts around 100,000 South African residents, and in the 2009 elections, Dubai ranked third in the list of places with the highest number of votes from South Africans abroad, with 900 votes.

At the moment, 300 people in Dubai and 70 people in Abu Dhabi have registered to vote, Lekgoro said. “However, this does not reflect the potential voters’ outcome, as many South Africans are already registered.”