via South Africans cast their votes in London | BDlive by Melvin Meintjies APRIL 30 2014
South Africans braved a tube strike and long queues to cast their votes in London on Wednesday.
South Africa House, on Trafalgar Square in London, struggled to cope with the turnout. The old building was not an ideal venue to process thousands of voters.
The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) had registered 9,863 eligible voters in the UK. They all had to make their way to South Africa House, the only polling station in the UK.
Many had taken a day off work to travel from the far corners of the UK, only to be faced with a logistical nightmare as London’s public transport system was hobbled by a tube strike.
African National Congress (ANC) and Democratic Alliance (DA) supporters wore their respective party paraphernalia and the mood was fairly festive.
Curious Londoners and tourists took pictures of the crowd of South Africans who’d occupied Trafalgar Square.
A joke that boerewors rolls were waiting at the end of the line was met with a loud cheer. There were no boerewors rolls, no beers and no big screens showing sport. But the chance to have their say kept them going.
BDlive spoke to a crop of South Africans as they’d finally made it to the end of the line to vote inside the High Commission. Many were “tired and drained” but still chipper. Thabile Nkabinde, who was in no mood to be delayed further, told BDlive: “Unfortunately it was on the day of the tube strike and the queue was long. I’ve just spoken to them to say they should have had separate queues for the disabled and the elderly. But I’m happy now I can vote.” Nicky Palmer said she’d been in the queue for “three-and-a-half hours”.
“But South Africans don’t get together often enough, so this is time for us to all get to know each other,” said Ms Palmer, who bumped into someone she knew from Grahamstown while talking to BDlive.
Byron Mondahl, who hails from Krugersdorp but now lives in Bristol, said: “It’s been pretty cool, it’s been really lekker. It’s nice to be amongst a bunch of South Africans.” Monica Slabbert, originally from Pretoria, said: “I saw some of my university friends that I’ve not seen in 10 years.” But it was not happiness all around.
Lyndsey Taheri said the High Commission “could have been a bit more organised” after she had spent hours in the queue.
Ryan Purvis echoed Ms Taheri, saying: “It could have been better. It took me about four-and-half, five hours. They have not designed this for 10,000 people, they’ve designed this for a few hundred people.”
Marius Schultz, who took a day off work to travel from Essex, said it was worth making the effort to “make a difference” and vote. “Because bad things happen if good people do nothing,” he added.
Putney resident Lesley Toombs was a little worse for wear but said: “I just feel proudly South African, it’s awesome.” Francine Higham, of the Democratic Alliance Abroad, said the “turnout has been impressive”.
“So many people made the effort to fight the tube strike. Before lunch 3,500 had cast their vote,” said Ms Higham.
While Xolani Xala, head of the ANC’s interim branch, said: “The IEC only issued us one voting station, there’s nothing we can do about that. But in ’94 people waited longer to cast their votes. Many people were here from 6:30am.” Polling opened at 7am and would close at 9pm.