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"Prison voting going smoothly" - South African Press Association

14th April 2004

Pretoria - Voting in prisons around the country went smoothly, said the Correctional Services Department on Wednesday.

This is despite some unregistered inmates being very upset at not being allowed to make their cross.

The Independent Electoral Commission's (IEC) presiding officer in Pretoria, Louise Kruger, said certain prisoners had become very upset at being prevented from voting.

"There are those who for whatever reason were not registered and so cannot be allowed to cast their vote," she said.

A total of 47 170 prisoners nationally had registered, with 6 532 in Gauteng.

Even the country's maximum security prison, C-Max, which holds the likes of apartheid murderer Eugene de Kock, had 88 inmates vote on election day.

Despite the controversy over the Constitutional Court's decision to allow prisoners to vote many on the "inside" believed they were entitled to vote.

Annemarie Thomas made her mark on the ballot paper in Pretoria's Women's Prison just after 10:00.

"I feel it is a good thing that we get to vote," she said.

She argued that not all prisoners would spend their lives behind bars and therefore should have a say in government.

When asked what she wanted out of government she answered: "Definitely not the reinstatement of the death penalty."

Amnesty

But for many others, the chance of amnesty was foremost on their wish lists.

Jacques Greyling, spending his second term in prison in Pretoria Central, accused government of going about the crime problem "all wrong".

"A petty thief who spends six months in detention while awaiting trial, walks out knowing how to commit six different other crimes," he said.

Greyling said he had gone to prison for stealing a motorbike and while detained learned how to commit million rand frauds - the reason for his second stint.

Self-described gay prisoner Rudi Buitendag, said people on the outside needed to realise that not all criminals were animals.

"Many of us are humans and have our own concerns," he said.

Buitendag has submitted recommendations on the treatment of gay prisoners to the Jali Commission. The commission is investigating human rights abuses in prisons and is said to be looking into the proposals.

"I can make a difference, and by voting I do," he said.

Correctional Services spokesperson Molwantwa Mosiane said security at prisons had been very tight with all emergency reaction units on standby.

"We don't want prisoners escaping, fighting or any other problems to arise," he said.

Only African National Congress Party (ANC) representatives were to be found monitoring the vote in certain prisoners, Kruger said.

Edited by Tisha Steyn

© South African Press Association, 2004

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