Prisoners vote for solutions to crime
By Francoise Gallet
April 14, 2004
Western Cape Pollsmoor Prison inmate, Fuad Hendricks, sentenced to three
years for housebreaking, cast his vote for the Democratic Alliance because he
wants "less crime", "more jobs" and "less
Discontent with the crime situation in South Africa is perhaps a surprising
sentiment to colour the voting choice of a prison inmate, but then again maybe
not’Ä¶ For as Hendricks explains: "The DA said that they would bring crime
down and create more jobs for people who are unemployed. If I had a job I would
not be a criminal."
Hendricks, who has his matric certificate, tried unsuccessfully for two years
to find a job, eventually turning to a life of "gangsterism and
Another inmate who wants a "better life" despite the fact that a
good 18 years of it will be spent behind bars is Christopher Wagner. Wagner has
his sights set firmly on the future ’Äì the future of his "kids at
"I'm voting for a party to make a better life for me and my kids."
Reasons for voting aside, Wagner firmly believes that he deserves his right
to mark the ballot paper. "We are part of the community; we are one
nation," he says of the Constitutional Court's controversial decision to
give prisoners the right to vote.
Ibrahim Petersen, serving time for housebreaking and theft, believes that it
would be wrong to deny prisoners their right to vote arguing that you need to
vote because at some stage you will put your crime "behind you".
"It's very good to allow prisoners to vote because we can get
Security Officer at the prison, Lous van Hansen, shares this sentiment
arguing that the prisoners are "human beings with a right to vote".
"Things have changed now in the new South Africa. They see the warders
voting," he says, implying that denying prisoners the right to vote amounts
to a denial of prisoners' humanity.
Hendricks also feels strongly that every person should have the right to
vote. "I'm a South African citizen. Every citizen should have the right to
Parliament's amendment to the Electoral Act that barred prisoners sentenced
to time behind bars without the option of a fine and the right to vote was
struck aside by the Constitutional Court earlier this year. The court ruled that
given our country's history, voting was a precious right and one to be enjoyed
by even those incarcerated.
Mervyn Daniels, who was jailed as a juvenile and is serving a sentence of 15
years argues along the same lines asserting that because prisoners are
"human beings" they deserve a right to "participate" in
South Africa’Äôs democracy.
But it's a sentiment that generates a fair share of controversy and even
political parties are divided on the issue.
The DA ’Äî vote-of-choice for Hendricks ’Äî is against all prisoners having
the right to vote and only supports voting rights for prisoners with the option
of a fine or for prisoners awaiting trial. As a party they also support the
The New National Party (NNP) and the Freedom Front Plus (FF+) also expressed
concern at the time of the Constitutional Court ruling, reported Johannesburg
newspaper The Star.
But regardless of the debate that may wage outside the prison walls, the
prisoners who voted on April 14 are undivided on the issue.