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Electoral law to be amended-Mbeki

12th November 2003

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The Electoral Act will be amended to ensure that South Africans abroad on election-day will be able to cast their vote, President Thabo Mbeki said yesterday.

Responding to a debate in the National Council of Provinces the president said he had heard from both the Freedom Front and the New National Party on the matter.

"We will be taking up this matter as their concerns are reasonable, and I'm sure steps will be taken to ensure that the necessary amendments will be done to afford people the opportunity to vote," he said.

Responding to complaints about him being out of the country too frequently, Mbeki said his travels abroad would not stop but increase.

"The foreign engagements of this country will not stop... (they are) going to increase. That is a fact".

They were necessary to mobilise foreign direct investment, as well as being the result of other countries wanting to learn from South Africa.

"Because of the things our people have done over the past ten years, even before 1994, the country serves as an inspiration to (all) humanity".

Mbeki rejected calls for a land summit, made by Western Cape premier Marthinus van Schalkwyk.

He said there was no disagreement on the need for land redistribution.

"There is no disagreement on the need to move forward. We are looking at practical steps to get there. I don't see the need for a summit. It is really a matter of ensuring that we move with necessary speed".

On reports that the low voter registration turnout over the past weekend was a "warning signal", Mbeki said there was great enthusiasm among South Africans to vote in the elections.

"I do not believe there exists among our people a sense of disillusionment".

He suggested politicians should go out and encourage people to register, and help them with problems.

"I think we must mobilise and assist with problems. There is the matter of ID books being issued and not picked up, things like that".

Mbeki said government was currently working on a report on the causes of death since 1996. He believed poverty - which he called the greatest fundamental issue facing South Africans - was the greatest killer.

"Not only poverty in the sense of hunger, but poverty in the sense of absence of good medical care; poverty in the sense of absence of a road in a rural area, an absence of jobs".

He said he was certain the report would show the impact of poverty on the health of the black majority.

Entering the second decade of democracy, South Africans had to make a commitment to face challenges of poverty together.

"It is a struggle that I am quiet certain we will win as we have won other struggles before, but to win it will require that we act together around a very clear programme of what needs to be done," he said. – Sapa.
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