Expats stick the knife into ANC as overseas voting starts

Muhammad Amin

Voting numbers in SA embassies abroad have swelled from just 20 000 in 2019 to about 70 000 for this election and its doubtful many of them will be voting ANC.

Antipathy towards the ruling party can be read in the Stats SA emigration figures that record 413 000 people choosing to move abroad since 2000.

Accurate trends on immigration are hard to come by as Stats SA simply gives bald exit figures on in and out flows, leaving hard conclusions to anecdote and bald opinion.

Figures from SARS and other external sources like other countries’ home offices and New World Wealth indicate it is mostly youthful or richer and skilled citizens taking the leap to foreign shores.

Anecdotal observation by travel and real estate agencies say most people are returning for weather, cost of living and family reasons.

In 2000, Stats SA recorded 501,600 South Africans residing abroad. In 2005, this increased to 550,462 and only continued rising – 743,807 in 2010; 786,554 in 2015; and in 2020, 914,901.

A measure of SA’s decline can be seen in the increasing number of emigrants qualifying in developed countries for refugee status, particularly in the US. So far, 4 250 South Africans have left Mzansi as “refugees”, with 1 350 heading to the US in 2022 alone, BusinessTech reports.

However, “return migration” figures indicate the grass may not be that greener on the visa flip side – Stats SA says 28 000 emigrants returned to the country in 2022.

However, the numbers agency warned the figure does not show an acceleration in returns. It noted over 45 000 returned in 2011, but only 27 900 in 2022.

“Information on return migration is important for several reasons, as it provides valuable insights into migration patterns, social dynamics, and policy implications. Return migration contributes to the overall understanding of migration patterns and trends,” Stats SA says.

If there’s a “brain drain”, its definitely coming from the rest of Africa to South Africa, with many African immigrants bringing valuable skills, Stats SA says.

But the movements still leave many SA citizens in other countries, either permanently or semi-permanently, still feeling much antipathy towards the ruling party’s performance.

Exactly how that will affect the ballot remains to be seen. Independent Electoral Commission spokesman Shiburi Mashego tells The Citizen the outcome will remain unknown until the votes cast are counted after polling stations close on May 29.

Turnout Monday in London’s SA embassy was brisk, with observers noting enthusiasm to cast a ballot was far higher than in previous elections.

“This is the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen” at the embassy during voting, Stanley Jacobs, originally from the Eastern Cape, said. He’s been living in London now for 23 years, but still votes in every election.

Chair for the Patriotic Alliance in the UK, he says this poll is “all about change”, adding it’s time to vote out the ANC.

Ilse Steyl has lived in Southampton for 24 years and originally hails from Free State. She said: “I’m hoping that the ANC does not get the majority.”

The DA is doing its best to drum up voting fever in foreign embassies because it sees easy wins on foreign shores as disgruntled, mostly white, Saffers stick the knife into their former government.

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