The standing ban on any political campaigning within the prison walls defeats the concept of democracy, some inmates at Chichiri Prison in Blantyre have said.
Chichiri Prison holds about 2 000 prisoners, a majority of whom are eligible to vote in tomorrow’s tripartite elections.
Speaking on the sidelines of a Centre for Human Rights Education, Advice and Assistance (Chreaa) voter and civic education campaign yesterday, a group of inmates noted that, although they are allowed to exercise their right to vote, the ban on political campaigning is hindering them from making informed choices based on the candidates’ manifestos.
“How are we supposed to make an informed vote when we do not know what these candidates stand for,” protested one inmate who refused to be named.
While acknowledging that the prisoners’ concerns make sense, Chreaa executive director Victor Mhango noted that their role is to ensure that they raise awareness about the election among the prisoners.
He explained that as a way around the ban, Chreaa distributed political party manifestos that would help enlighten the prisoners on what each party represents.
“Since political campaigning in prisons is banned, we hope distributing the manifestos help the inmates understand who is who,” he said, adding government should consider waiving the ban on political campaigning in prisons.
However, Mhango disclosed that it was difficult to distribute manifestos for MPs and councillors as most of them did not have policy documents.
Chreaa is running a Royal Norwegian Embassy-funded voter and civic education campaign in all prisons across the country.