ZAMBIA Correctional Service Commissioner General Dr Chisela Chileshe says prisoners will be free to vote for candidates of their choice, and that their votes will be mixed with those from the surrounding community to avoid discrimination.

In an interview, Dr Chileshe urged candidates to ensure that they sold themselves and their manifestos, adding that no one would force inmates to vote for a particular candidate.

“This is the first time we are doing that system [of voting in prisons] and then no one controls one’s mind. The voting is secret, it doesn’t matter how and where you are, you use your own intellect, you have your own mind to choose. What is important is that those that are eyeing these offices should be known, they should expose themselves to the inmates so that they know them and understand their manifesto through the given platform. Minus that, they might not know them, so it’s those that are going to be known that will easily be voted for. So my appeal is that let those who are aspiring get acquainted with the environment in which they are going to stand. I don’t think anyone can force anyone to say this is what you should do, I don’t think so,” he said.

“The commission has stipulated how it’s going to be, there will be campaigns but not physical where you go and stand on the podium and campaign. Rather, there will be other means like the media, pamphlets, leaflets which will be displayed at advantageous places where inmates can access them.”

Dr Chileshe noted that in order to protect inmates from discrimination, the prison vote would be mixed with the community.

“We are all in the learning phase and both the inside world and outside world we are learning. But what we really have done in order to protect that notion that they will be forced, is to ensure that the votes that they will cast are actually mixed with the community so that you cannot identify that this is what is strictly coming from the inmates populace because then it will be easy to have them intimidated and so on and so forth. But in order to protect them so that they can express their freedom to choose who they want, the vote will be mixed,” said Dr Chileshe.

Governance activist Brebnar Changala recently expressed fear that the prison vote would be abused in favour of the ruling party saying the vote from the prisons could be a deciding factor in case of an re-run.