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Prison voting gets off to a shaky start

2014-05-07 12:35
Prisoners have begun voting. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)
Witbank - It was not a smooth start for the first prisoner who voted at the Witbank Corrections Centre in Mpumalanga on Wednesday.

"I don't know how to do this," the young inmate said, stepping out of the voting booth.

Electoral officers arose from their seats to help him.

"Tell us if you need any more help," they said after giving him directions.

Next in line was an elderly man. He beamed as he stepped out of the voting booth and placed his national and provincial voting papers in the ballot boxes.

There was much chatter and excitement inside the voting station as the prisoners went up one-by-one to cast their votes.

Late start

The sound of keys and the clatter of handcuffs filled the passage as the prisoners were led into the area and uncuffed as they entered the voting station. Smiling widely, some of them placed their green ID books in their shirt pockets after casting their votes.

One man has slipped his ID document into an old, worn, leather pouch.

The inmates looked clean and tidy in their bright orange overalls and black shoes.

"Who did you vote for?" one inmate asked another in IsiZulu.

"Obvious," he responded.

Only four IEC officials were present to help the scores of voting prisoners, so police officers had been brought in to help.

In one instance, two prisoners entered the same voting booth.

"What are you doing there? Discussing votes?" a prison guard asked.

The one prisoner sheepishly left his inmate in the booth and went into the next cubicle.

The prison guards, in their brown uniforms, monitored the proceedings. At least one of them had a brown baton tucked into the left side of his pants. He sucked on a red lollipop as he stood in line to also cast his vote. One of his colleagues sat in the corner of the room, digging into a packet of chips and munching away.

After starting three hours late, voting seemed to continue slowly but smoothly. It took one prisoner just under 10 minutes to make his way through the voting station.

The presiding officer said he was not sure how many inmates would vote.

It was still unclear why voting only started at 10:40 instead of the scheduled 07:00 time.

The presiding officer said he could not give reasons for the delay.

"We are not allowed to speak to the media," he said.

A prison official joked, saying he would vote for the African National Congress.

"I have a job because of them," he laughed.

All voting stations should be open from 07:00 and close at 21:00.

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