Page last updated at 10:36 GMT, Wednesday, 15 April 2009 11:36 UK

South African expats vote early

Expat voters outside South Africa House in London

South Africans who live outside the country have begun voting in the general election.

Nearly 18,000 have registered to vote, after the constitutional court ruled that expatriates who were already on the electoral register could take part.

In central London, home to South Africa's largest diaspora, hundreds queued from before dawn to cast their ballot outside South Africa House.

In South Africa itself voting takes place on 22 April.

One man in London told the BBC he had arrived to vote at 0400 local time (0300 GMT) - three hours before the doors opened.

I am proud to participate in a democracy we worked so hard to achieve
South African in London

Nearly 7,500 people have registered to vote in London.

But BBC Africa analyst Martin Plaut says this is only a small percentage of the community in Britain, which numbers hundreds of thousands.

Those who had come were excited to be there.

"I am proud to participate in a democracy we worked so hard to achieve," said one voter patiently waiting at South Africa House, where anti-apartheid activists once demonstrated for Nelson Mandela to be released from prison.

South Africans living abroad were only given the vote after a court ruling was confirmed in March.

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

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