Prisoners have right to vote-State

By Nation Reporter

PRISONERS can register and vote in the next general election because they are eligible voters, says the Attorney General.

But Prisons Care and Counseling Association (PRISCCA) executive director Godfrey Malembeka said those already registered must be allowed to vote in the August 11, 2016 general elections as they were eligible to take part.

But Attorney General Likando Kalaluka submitted that prisoners would not be able to vote in the August general elections because the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) did not have polling stations in prisons.

In his submissions before the Constitutional Court, Assistant Senior State Advocate Murah Kapamba, said the Attorney General was not in contention of the petition for the protection of fundamental freedoms and rights of prisoners in Zambia.

“That, however, the prisoners’ right to vote and register can only be enjoyed in the next general election as the voter registration closed on 29th February, 2016 in readiness for the certification of the register of voters on 31st May, 2016.

“That I swear to this my affidavit verily believing the same to be true and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief,” he said.

This was in a matter in which Prisons Care and Counseling Association executive director Godfrey Malembeka petitioned the Attorney General and the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) on the rights of prisoners to vote in an election. ECZ deputy director Chomba Chella said they have increased the number of polling stations, but that not included prison or detention facilities, and that the voter registration exercise was already closed in the current process leading to the August 11, 2016 elections.

But Dr Malembeka argued that pre-trial remandees in prisons were innocent until proven otherwise and should enjoy their fundamental rights to vote in a national and local government elections. He said by virtue of their failure to obtain bail for bailable offences or pending appeal for those convicted as such could not register as voters or obtain national registration cards, therefore, unable to exercise their right to vote. “In response to paragraph 6 of the 2nd respondent’s answer, the petitioner shall aver at trial that pre-trial remandees who are already registered as voters in this year’s general elections are eligible to vote in this year’s general election that will not call for the reopening of voter registration or establishing new polling stations as alleged and the said respondent shall be put to strict proof thereof,” he said.