‘We vote because being in prison doesn’t mean we lose our humanity’

2014-05-07 13:55

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The fact that some of them are serving long sentences did not deter voters at the Kgosi Mampuru II prison in Pretoria from making their mark.

Scores of prisoners serving at the facility, formerly known as the Pretoria Central Prison, formed queues from about 8am today to cast their ballots.

Thabang Zono (40) said he never missed an opportunity to vote for a government of his choice, and said his fellow inmates were equally excited about voting today. He has been in prison since 1995, and the only time he voted outside was in the first democratic elections 20 years ago.


Acting national commissioner of correctional services Nontsikelelo Jolingana said 684 prisoners had registered during the last registration round at King Mampuru II, and she hoped more would vote this time around.

Zono said he hoped voting this time around would help improve the lot of his mother who lives in a shack in Evaton in the Vaal.

“Voting is going to make a difference. By voting, I get to choose which government should lead the country and in which ideological way,” he says.

He disagrees with the view that prisoners should lose the right to vote.

“By coming to prison, it doesn’t mean we lose our humanity. So we can actually add value [as prisoners]. We are here to be rehabilitated and cannot be excluded,” he says.

His fellow inmate, Hendrik Slippers (52), shares his sentiment.

“If you don’t vote, you can’t complain. Every vote counts. It makes a difference outside [jail],” he says.

Jolingana says about 97% of the country’s prison population qualifies to vote, but inmates have a choice whether or not to exercise their right to vote.

She said parties had not been allowed to canvass for votes in prisons, but had been given the green light to bring promotional material to educate voters about their policies.

Families of those who didn’t have their identity documents with them had been encouraged to bring them so the inmates could vote.

“We can only hope that they will come in their numbers and exercise their right,” Jolingana said.

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