Voting day was met with much anticipation, it has been one of the most important elections since the first democratic elections in 1994 political analysts said. Although one is serving a jail term they are still afforded the right to vote. 470 prisoners voted in Tswelopele, Kimberly, Barkley West and Douglas Correctional Services.
At Tswelopele Correctional Services we were welcomed by Mr Simphiwo Nomvete, Director of Communications. he voting commenced at 9am and the offenders were neatly lined up as they waited their turn to cast their votes. IEC officials were there to ensure smooth operations. The offenders Identity Documents were scanned before being allowed to enter the venue where the votes are being cast. The area commissioner of Kimberly, Mr Joe Joseph and acting Head of Centre, Mr Patrick Mxinzeleli were also present.
We managed to speak to four inmates about their voting experience and also their views on being able to exercise their democratic right to cast their vote even though their rights are not equal to those of an individual who is not incarcerated.
Mr Modise Mateo, a 42 year old man who is serving a 10 year sentence was transferred from Bloemfontein a month ago. He was eager to share his opinions with us. He stated that he felt good about casting his vote and that it is of importance to utilise your democratic right, regardless of the situations you are In. ‘I voted at the right time at the right place,’ he said. He feels that voting is an essential way to make sure that you have a say in the changes that your country shall make, he further added that he would like to see an improvement in the education sector, the work force and the schooling system. When asked why some people don’t exercise their democratic right to vote he said, “Some people see no need to vote as they don’t see any changes occurring”.
Speaking to Mr Christopher Cader, a 33-year-old first time voter in prison, He felt that the voting process went smoothly and that everyone should vote if they want change. “One needs to cast their vote so that their children on the outside can also benefit from the vote”. He would like to see improvement in the education sector and also on the roads that we have. Mr Cader was proud that he was able to cast his vote and thinks that people that don’t vote feel their vote means nothing.
We then proceeded to the Kimberley Correctional Services were we had the opportunity to speak to two bubbly female offenders. One of the ladies said she felt happy about being able to vote, however she was saddened by the fact that she could not campaign as she usually campaigns during election season when she was outside. “Your vote is a chance for your voice to be heard and you need to exercise your democratic right,” she elaborated. She is hoping for better education and that political parties will deliver on the promises they have made. Priscilla was elated that she got to vote as she feels that it is very important to do so, “Voting is very important for education, especially for our kids,” she said. She said that she feels some people do not vote as they feel hopeless and that political parties fail to execute what they promise the people whilst campaigning. The ladies said they discuss politics frequently and that they try to grasp as much as they can from television on what is happening outside the correctional services. They were both proud to have casted their votes, this was very clear in their facial expressions as well as the elated tones of their voices.