Prisoners vote, grope in the dark

 

Inmates at Chichiri Prison in Blantyre yesterday went to the polls to elect councillors and parliamentarians who they scarcely knew as all candidates are not allowed to campaign in correctional facilities.

The inmates’ leader, Kondwani Kampondeni, said they had it easier to elect presidential candidates as they followed their campaigns and debates on television sets fitted in congested cells, but had no idea about those competing for positions of member of Parliament and ward councillors.

“We certainly did not know the role of councillors and parliamentarians. We just ticked anyhow. Otherwise, the process was smooth,” said Kampondeni.

Some of the inmates cast their votes

Chichiri Prison officer-in-charge Alex Makunganya said it was important that the prisoners exercised their right to vote in accordance with Section 40 (2) of the Constitution.

“By law, candidates are not allowed to campaign in prison. We were only following the law. However, we conducted all the other processes from registration, verification, transfers and polling. Civic and voter education was also conducted,” he said.

Presiding officer Thomas Gama said the process was satisfactory.

“Every eligible voter is voting. For those who registered at other centres, we are verifying through the available channels,” he said.

Some countries, including the UK where Malawi draws most of its laws, does not allow prisoners to vote.

For two weeks, the Centre for Human Rights, Education, Advice and Assistance took civic and voter education to prisons in the Southern and Eastern regions.

In an interview, Chreaa executive director Victor Mhango told The Nation that it was a landmark development that the country upholds inmates’ liberty to vote, but the civil society may need to launch a public interest litigation to move the courts to affirm the confined community’s right to access to information during elections.

Share This Post