Press Statement: SA citizens in Israel denied Constitutional right to vote


Statement by the SAZF

As voting abroad in the 2024 elections is set to take place on the 17th and18th of May, the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) objects to the South African government’s infringement of the basic constitutional rights of citizens who are in Israel at this time.

The decision by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) to suspend services of its embassy in Tel Aviv will materially and adversely affect members of the South African public. The government recalled its diplomats in November 2023 in response to Israel’s military defence operation against the terrorist group Hamas, following the Hamas attack that killed more than 1,200 Israelis and took more than 240 hostages on 7th October.

Some of the South Africans who will be denied one of their most basic democratic rights include members of the Jewish community and South Africans studying at Israeli universities. The SAZF has informed the Electoral Commission (IEC) and DIRCO of its fears. The IEC has reiterated that it is bound to the directives of DIRCO, who had informed them in January 2024 that the Tel Aviv mission was “temporarily closed due to security concerns”. DIRCO and the IEC have failed to inform the public that the temporary closure of the Tel Aviv voting mission would not be lifted in time for this Friday’s voting date. 

South Africans in Israel are left in a position where they couldn’t have made any alternative arrangements to vote elsewhere because the deadline to change one’s voting station of choice expired on 22nd April 2024.

Citizens like writer and researcher Kenneth Mokgatlhe, based at the Ben Gurion University in Southern Israel, have expressed their distress. “It is so disappointing to me that I won’t be able to execute my national duty to vote for my desired government. For the first time since I was eligible to vote in the 2009 general elections, the ANC government will make it impossible for South African citizens in Israel to cast their vote to bring about much-needed change in government. I was told by IEC officials that I should go to other missions outside Israel to vote, such as Ramallah, Amman or Cairo,” Mokgatlhe said.

Rowan Polovin, National Chairman of the SAZF said: “Apart from the severe impracticalities involved in voting elsewhere, the democratic principle should be paramount: South African citizens in Israel should be empowered by their government – funded by their taxes – to exercise their basic voting rights, rights which are at the very heart of any free country.”

The SAZF asked DIRCO to supply it with the reasoning and supportive documentation on the decision to suspend services the Tel Aviv embassy and how they have informed the public about it.

The contrasting decision to suspend services at the Tel Aviv voting embassy but have the mission in Ramallah open for voting is irrational, especially when taking into account that only 5 South Africans voted in Ramallah in the 2019 National Elections. This obscuring of fundamental, entrenched political rights of citizens by foreign policy aims is unjustifiable.

As DIRCO have consistently voiced their moral disapproval of what they falsely claim to be Israel’s denial of Palestinian rights, it is ironic that the SA government is willing to deny their own citizens’ rights when it is politically beneficial for them to do so.

The SAZF calls upon the South African government to immediately rectify this grave injustice and ensure that all South African citizens, regardless of their location, are able to exercise their constitutional right to vote in the upcoming elections.
Issued by the SAZF 
Chair: Rowan Polovin
WhatsApp: 060 484 8273 

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