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Inmates left out of election campaigns

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Inmates left out of election campaigns

Mohloai Mpesi

Prisoners will go to next month’s polls without a clear picture of the contesting parties’ manifestos as they have been left out of party campaign schedules ahead of next month’s elections.

None one of the of the eligible 52 political parties out of 65 registered with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) have bothered to engage inmates on their election manifestos, according to Lesotho Correctional Services spokesperson, Pheko Ntobane.

Lesotho prisons were estimated to have a population of 2200 inmates in 2019, which accounted for 0.1 percent of the country’s total population.

Ntobane said inmates enjoyed the same civic rights as other citizens when it comes to casting their votes and being engaged by politicians during the electioneering period. 

He explained that politicians were not barred from visiting prisons to share their election manifestos with inmates but they were inexplicably not forthcoming.

Politicians can request an audience with the inmates by seeking permission from the LCS management, he said.

Ntobane said inmates were relying on listening to the radio to get a glimpse of what different parties have planned post the 7 October poll.

“Prisoners have a right to vote and that right does not count only when they cast their votes in the ballot box, but starts the moment the campaigning starts and they also deserve the privilege to hear what the politicians promise them, and why they have to vote for parties of their choice,” Ntobane said.

“Their right to vote is not deprived because on October 7, 2022 they will cast their votes, even in legal context they are not denied access to have the politicians visit them and brief them about their intentions once they take over government.

“Politicians are not coming in here to canvass, and we don’t know why.”

Former Deputy Prime Minister and leader of Alliance for Democrats (AD), Monyane Moleleki, believes that prisoners should not be allowed to vote.

‘Mokola’ as he is affectionately known in the political circles, convicts are nothing but a bunch of outlaws whose right to vote should be suspended while serving their sentences.

Only upon full completion of their prison sentence should they resume exercising their rights including to participate in elections, he said. 

“It is not really important to go and campaign in prison because I have to be concerned about the community which these people have wronged.

“Why should I waste my valuable time to convince a person who comes from a certain village when I can go and talk to thousands in that village, the villagers that those people victimized with their evil deeds?

“I remember when ntate Mosisili was still a Prime Minister and he summoned his cabinet on his return from New York and said the Amnesty International was concerned about insufficiency of beds in Lesotho prisons. He also asked them whether he should prioritize availing more beds to hospitals which are in shortage or to the prisoners who maltreat other people.

“It was a valid point because you can’t prioritize a person who mistreats others over the patients. I would rather reach out to the poor people who have been subjected to evil deeds by these people.”

He continued; “This coming Saturday we are going to lay to rest a 14-year old girl in Ha-Tumahole in Machache who was brutally assaulted and murdered some people.

“Her family and the community are still looking for perpetrators. Should devote my support to bereaved family or visit to prisoners?”

Moleleki believes prisoners must not to be allowed to participate in elections whatsoever.

“My understanding is that when one is accused and sentenced, they have denied themselves all civic liberties and freedom. They should be regarded as regarded as dangerous animals that should not live with other human beings.

“So I don’t see why they should have equal rights with those who have been subjected to all kinds of evil. It is when they have served their full sentence that they will be able to exercise their rights to participate in elections and other human rights.

On his part, All Basotho Convention (ABC) spokesperson, Montoeli Masoetsa, admitted that they had not visited the correctional services, but were open to the idea.

“We have never visited the prisons because we have been busy with other campaigns as they have not been included on our programme. However, I will check with our campaign team so see if it is not included and make some recommendations.

“We still have some time to do campaigns, it is only that the big rallies end on Sunday but we can proceed at our respective constituencies. I don’t how preparations have to go and to what extend because their movement is limited.

“If we come to power, we will ensure that prisoners live in a conducive environment, which is safe and clean and healthy for their lives,” Masoetsa said.

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