‘I’ve never been so humiliated’ – Popular SA chef ‘denied the right to vote’ overseas

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South Africans abroad voted last weekend. Picture for illustration purposes: BENJAMIN CREMEL / AFP

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation said the matter had been reported to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).

As thousands turned out to cast their ballot at SA embassies across the world last weekend, food influencer and popular chef Fikile Zungu claims she was turned back and denied her right to vote.

Zungu has been living in Belgium since 2010, when she was employed at the embassy. She boasts a big social media following, has cooked for several dignitaries, given lessons to celebrities like DJ Zinhle, and has her own cookbook.

But she was left with a bad taste in her mouth while trying to vote recently.

She said she took her daughter to the embassy in January to register and checked her own registration was in order.

However, when she showed up to vote last Saturday, she found she was not on the voters’ roll. A supervisor was called to investigate.

“He found out I was registered to vote in South Africa. I cannot vote in Belgium, but I am registered. I am confused by this because previously I have voted here in Belgium, I have been in Belgium for 14 years. He told me he was sorry and there was nothing he could do, I could not vote.”

‘I didn’t vote’

Her frustration increased when she witnessed a white woman apparently in the same situation receive the help she needed.

Zungu questioned why the woman was able to vote when she wasn’t, and wondered if it had anything to do with her departure from the embassy three years ago.

“It was so confusing to me, and so personal. I didn’t vote,” she said, getting emotional.

“I feel victimised again by the SA embassy. Why does this keep happening to me? Couldn’t they try something so that I can vote like that woman voted. My daughter was just waiting outside,” she added, breaking down in tears.

She said the embassy had taken her right to vote away from her, and left her humiliated.

DIRCO responds

As the video flooded timelines, Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) spokesperson Clayson Monyela said the matter had been reported to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).

The IEC has yet to respond. Any update will be included once received.

“I know she mentions the SA Embassy repeatedly here, but it’s the IEC (an independent body) that runs elections. DIRCO merely provided venues (embassies and consulates). The matter has been reported to IEC. They’ll investigate and take appropriate action,” Monyela said, apologising to Zungu for the “nasty” experience.

Monyela said all missions, including in Brussels, “went smoothly”. He called Zungu’s experience “an isolated incident”.

How to check if you are on the voters roll

According to the IEC, you can inspect the voters’ roll, register or update your registration details either at your local IEC office during office hours, or at your voting station on special registration days.

The SA government’s website adds that if you are a registered voter, you can check your name on the voters’ roll. If your name is not on the voters’ roll, you must visit your local Electoral Commission (IEC) office to re-register.

However, the voters’ roll closes for an election on the day that the date of the election is proclaimed in the government gazette, warned the IEC

The Citizen/Kyle Zeeman