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South Africa, a country grappling with one of the highest crime rates in the world, is gearing up for this year’s national election.
In an attempt to boost the number of voters, officials from the Electoral Commission of South Africa have embarked on a mission to register at least 100,000 inmates from the 240 correctional facilities across the country.
This is a significant increase from the 15,000 prisoners who voted in the last national election in 2019.
Despite being incarcerated, adult citizens have the right to vote in South Africa, a constitutional guarantee that sets the country apart from most of its African counterparts where prisoners are often disqualified from voting.
The Electoral Commission of South Africa hopes to conclude their visit to all 240 prisons by the end of Thursday, but the exact number of registered inmates is yet to be determined.
At the all-male Zonderwater Correctional Centre, located on the outskirts of the capital, Pretoria, prisoners in bright orange uniforms queued up in a hall to register as first-time voters or update their details on electoral rolls if they have recently been incarcerated.
Guards closely monitored the process, while a banner with the words “Ensuring Free and Fair Elections” hung on the wall to remind everyone of the importance of this democratic right. However, not all inmates participated in the registration process, with some chatting with each other or focusing on their work, preparing lunch in the cafeteria.
The exact date for the vote is yet to be announced, but it is expected to take place sometime between May and August.
The success of this ambitious project to register inmates as voters is yet to be determined, but it is a significant step towards ensuring that every adult citizen in South Africa exercises their right to vote.