Page last updated at 11:40 GMT, Tuesday, 24 February 2009

S Africa challenges expat vote

South African rugby fans in London
An estimated 600,000 South Africans live in the UK

South Africa's government has applied to the country's highest court to appeal against a ruling saying South Africans abroad have the right to vote.

The judgement, made by Pretoria's High Court earlier this month, has to be confirmed by the Constitutional Court.

But Home Affairs Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula says there were mistakes in the ruling, national radio reported.

If confirmed by the Constitutional Court, the decision could delay the 22 April general elections.

Some two million South Africans live abroad.

According to the South African Broadcasting Corporation, Ms Mapisa-Nqakula said that the ruling disqualified certain classes of absent citizens from voting - and was therefore discriminatory.

The opposition Afrikaner nationalist Freedom Front Plus party brought the original case on behalf of a South African school teacher living in the UK.

The Constitutional Court is due to hear the applications next week.

April's poll is shaping up to be the most interesting since the end of apartheid in 1994.

African National Congress (ANC) leader Jacob Zuma is the front-runner to become president but his bid has been overshadowed by the corruption charges he is facing.

He will face Methodist bishop Mvume Dandala - the candidate from the breakaway Congress of the People (Cope) party, which could win enough votes to deny the ANC a two-thirds majority to parliament, needed to change the constitution.

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