Slow start to voting at Westville prison in KwaZulu-Natal

Voting got off to a slow start at Durban’s Westville prison, with inmates expressing excitement as they waited in anticipation to cast their ballots.

The inmates, clad in their familiar orange prison uniform, waited for up to two hours for ballot papers to arrive at the voting station inside the prison facility.

Inside the prison, heavily armed wardens looked on, leaving nothing to chance.

KwaZulu-Natal Correctional Services commissioner Mnikelwa Nxele explained that there were hiccups and glitches because of faulty scanners.

Highest number of inmates

“But eventually voting went smoothly, and the inmates were able to exercise their constitutional rights,” said Nxele.

“This is an important exercise in ensuring that inmates also have a say in the affairs of the country. They must have the opportunity to elect a government of their choice.”

He asserted that, as prison authorities, they were pleased that they were able to record the second-highest number of registered prison voters.

“This alone means we have something right as prison officials that, despite being a small province in terms of population after Gauteng, we got more inmates to register to vote.”

In KwaZulu-Natal, Westville accounted for the highest number of inmates who cast their votes, with 1 660 inmates, of which a bigger chunk were males.

An inmate who spoke to Sunday World said she believed her vote would bring positive change.

“For the past 30 years, we have seen slow change. But this time, there are known parties, which we hope can bring all the changes we need,” said Thabile Vilakazi-Hlongwane, a female inmate.

Inequality in the system

She lamented that there is still no equality in the correctional justice system.

“Those who have committed white-collar crime are not treated like us, who are classified as hard-core criminals.

“They are easily granted parole and treated decently. These are all the things that I hope my vote will change,” she said.

Vilakazi-Hlongwane, a married mother of two, could not hold her excitement that she would be given a prison break in January, after spending 12 years behind prison walls.

In terms of the national picture, Gauteng has 4 879 registered inmates, KwaZulu-Natal has 3 448, and the Eastern Cape has 2 676 registered inmates.

The Western Cape recorded the lowest number of inmates who registered to vote, at less than 2 000. A total of 17 129 inmates registered to vote across the country.

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