Prisoners set to protest over voting complaints

The South African Prisoners Organisation for Human Rights (SAPOHR) has threatened a countrywide mass action across all South Africa’s 248 correctional facilities. | Neo Ntsoma Independent Newspapers Archives

The South African Prisoners Organisation for Human Rights (SAPOHR) has threatened a countrywide mass action across all South Africa’s 248 correctional facilities. | Neo Ntsoma Independent Newspapers Archives

Published May 12, 2024


The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) says it is not aware of an impending countrywide “passive hunger strike” by the country’s inmates said to be dissatisfied with the IEC voter registration rollout ahead of the upcoming national elections.

This comes after the SA Prisoners Organisation for Human Rights (Sapohr) on Sunday threatened countrywide mass action across all South Africa’s 248 correctional facilities.

Sapohr president, Golden Miles Bhudu, said the impending mass protest will include passive hunger strikes, downing of kitchen, cleaning and garden tools as well as a boycott of court appearances by inmates.

“The call for this legitimate peaceful protest action, is borne from the indisputable long-standing fact of the so-called IEC and its allies, the ANC, Department of Correctional Services (DCS) and Department of Home Affairs’ (DHA) involvement in electoral fraud and orchestration.

“For years, since our hard-earned democracy, but it is now exposed. By means of having for more than 25 years conspired to illegally and unconstitutionally disenfranchised both un/sentenced prisoners (Revos); very quietly, away from the public eye,” he said.

Bhudu accused the Electoral Commission of SA (IEC), DCS and DHA of failing to ensure free and fair elections, saying these institutions are in cahoots with the governing party since the second national elections in 2000.

“Sapohr reiterates once again that the IEC’s independence and impartiality were compromised since the second elections in 2000; when the IEC, Department of Correctional Service and the Department of Home Affairs realised that both un/sentenced prisoners (Revos); stopped supporting the ANC,” he said.

Bhudu said Sapohr wanted the IEC to ensure that inmates who are eligible to vote are allowed to vote. Also, that those without their IDs be issued new IDs and temporary IDs so that they are able to cast their votes in the general elections in just under two weeks’ time.

Sapohr also wants inmates who did not have their IDs with them during January’s voter registration to be allowed to vote via their a fingerprint electronic system.

“We want potential voters, who are South African citizens who are eligible to vote and are 18 years old and above, and didn’t have their IDs during registration, for very obvious reasons, be allowed to vote, using their Prison Orange Prison and backed up by the DHA Finger Print MORFETT scanner machine.

“We also want for those who never had IDs, temporary IDs, to be issued IDs free of charge and for political parties to be given access to campaign freely in our prisons, as well as for the IEC to conduct voter education and prioritisation of party agents,” Bhudu said.

According to the IEC, the 2019 general election saw more than 15 000 inmates casting their votes. This year, the electoral commission has indicated that it wants to increase this to 100 000 against an inmate population of 157 000.

The IEC has not been able to confirm how many inmates are eligible to vote in the 2024 elections, but the commission in a statement in January, said it had visited the country’s correctional facilities in preparation for the elections.

“The IEC reached out to prisons in preparation for the voter registration, the IEC also reached out to the families of inmates to deliver ID documents to correctional facilities to ensure eligible voters are able to vote,” the IEC said.

Speaking to ‘The Star’ on Sunday, DCS spokesperson, Logan Maistry indicated that the IEC and DCS have in the past few months put measures in place to ensure free ad fair elections to registered inmates.

“The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) is not aware of the said complaints. This was duly confirmed on Thursday (May 9, 2024), at the latest DCS weekly meeting on DCS state of readiness for voting, by all DCS regions.

“Also, last Thursday (May 9, 2024), Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola undertook a voter education drive for inmates at Durban Management Area, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Region.

“Minister Lamola encouraged both male and female inmates to exercise their democratic right to vote in the 2024 general national and provincial elections, adding that the DCS is working with the IEC to ensure a conducive environment for free and fair elections in all correctional facilities across the country,“ Maistry said.

Maistry said that since the 1999 elections, the IEC, Department of Home Affairs and other relevant entities have continued to work closely with the DCS to provide voter registration and voting opportunities for offenders in line with the Constitutional right extended to inmates to vote.

“As part of the Electoral Commission’s voter registration drive for inmates, the Deputy Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Nkosi Phathekile Holomisa, led a monitoring visit of the registration process by the IEC, on January 31, 2024, to Johannesburg and Kgosi Mampuru II correctional facilities.

“Chairperson of the Electoral Commission, Mosotho Moepya, was at the Zonderwater Correctional Facility, in Cullinan, Tshwane, on February 1, 2024, to oversee the inmates’ voter registration process,” he added.

The Star

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