Govt acknowledges role of South Africans living abroad in voting

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Pretoria - Government has acknowledged the important role that South Africans abroad played in voting in last week's special votes.

In a statement on Monday, Government Spokesperson Themba Maseko said it was significant that 16 240 South Africans living abroad applied for and were granted permission for a special vote.

Almost half of these, 7 427, voted in London where the South African High Commissioner mobilised the entire mission to ensure that voting went smoothly.

"The enthusiasm evident in 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 effort or creating more jobs," said Mr Maseko.

He said the enthusiasm shown by those citizens abroad also bode well for building a brain-bank of South Africans living abroad to assist in the process of image-building, investment and ongoing knowledge exchange and the acquisition of skills.

Mr Maseko said the Homecoming Revolution and the Global South African 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 and disseminating accurate information about opportunities and conditions in the country.

"The recently-formed Global South African Network, active in the United States and the United Kingdom, has as its objective the building of a global network of skilled and influential South Africans who can help the country attract foreign direct investment and achieve its economic objectives in a globalised world," he said.

By casting their votes, they also strengthened their bond with their compatriots at home as well as gave substance to the ruling by the Constitutional Court that South Africans abroad should have the right to vote.

Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) chairperson Dr Brigalia Bam said the enthusiasm shown by South Africans living abroad in voting at missions abroad last week was "incredible".

She said the IEC was confident the enthusiasm would be felt in South Africa on Wednesday too.

"We can easily make that assumption because if we get anything less than 80 percent, it will be disappointing," Dr Bam said.