Zimbabwe Prisoners Demand Right to Vote

Voters queue in 2008 elections (file photo).

Harare — The High Court in Zimbabwe is presiding over a matter brought by some prisoners demanding to vote in the general elections scheduled for the end of this month.

Prisoners, Tungamirai Madzokere and Last Maengahama, currently serving prison terms of 20 years each at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison after conviction of murdering a policeman last year, want the High Court to issue an order compelling the government and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to register them on the national voters roll and facilitate their voting on July 30.

Yvonne Musarurwa, who was also a prisoner until he was released under an amnesty early this year, is the third applicant.

Madzokere, Maengahama and Musarurwa, who are represented by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, that since the period that they had been detained, ZEC had neither carried out any voter education, including voter registration nor enabled prisoners to cast their vote during several by-elections held to elect legislators.

The applicants argued that they are entitled to exercise their political rights regardless of their status as detainees.

Judge Justice Clement Phiri is presiding over the hearing.

While all Zimbabweans aged over 18 have the right to vote, as enshrined in the constitution, prisoners have never been accorded that right. President Emmerson Mnangagwa in March pardoned some 3 000 prisoners to ease overpopulation in the Southern African country's jails.

The amnesty was anticipated to bring the prison population down to 17 000.

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