Home Uncategorized ‘Mentally challenged have a right to vote’

‘Mentally challenged have a right to vote’

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“According to the IEC regulations, if a person has a mental disability they are not entitled to vote. If they are illiterate, however, they can vote and can have assistance to cast their vote.”

South Africa - 8 May 2019 - Elections 2019 - Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)

WHILE voters in the Northern Cape did not appear to have issues when voting with fake nails, one mother objected when she was prevented from accompanying her mentally challenged son to make his cross.

The mother, who accompanied her 32-year-old son to the voting station at Thabane High School, said IEC officials prevented her from going with her son into the voting booth.

“About four or five IEC officials took him into the booth and said I was not allowed to go with them. I had to wait outside. They, however, do not understand him – I do because I have known him since he was a baby. I feel that his rights have been compromised by the fact that I was not allowed to accompany him inside,” the mother said.

She added that when she asked afterwards what her son had done in the voting booth, she was told that it had been “sorted out”.

“I do not know if he was allowed to vote or not. It makes my heart very sore because even if he is mentally retarded he still has a right to vote.”

IEC provincial electoral officer Bonolo Modise said he was unaware of the incident as it was not reported to the provincial office.

“According to the IEC regulations, if a person has a mental disability they are not entitled to vote. If they are illiterate, however, they can vote and can have assistance to cast their vote.”

The Electoral Amendment Bill bars anyone “detained” in a psychiatric hospital or “declared to be of unsound mind or mentally disordered” from taking part in the electoral process.

The refusal by Parliament to remove these two clauses from the act has created controversy among those involved in mental health care. It has been pointed out that South Africa has more than 30 000 people who are in mental health care institutions.

Those objecting to the exclusion have indicated that mental health care users who have not been committed for psychosis and extreme mental illness should be allowed to cast a special vote.

“Mental illness is not your fault and to criminalise people who are ill is worse than criminals who make a decision to rob people of their safety, of their lives, of their dignity and yet they are still giving an opportunity to vote, it doesn’t make sense,” one lobbyist stated.

The South African Federation for Mental Health, which has been lobbying the IEC to change the law for the past eight years, agrees with this sentiment, pointing out that the right to vote is an important constitutional entitlement and psychiatric patients have a right to vote.

In other parts of the country, reports were meanwhile received of officials turning female voters away because they had fake nails.

Julius Malema was among those who reported that his wife Mantwa Malema had been instructed by an IEC staff member to remove her fake nails before voting.

The IEC announced yesterday that fake nails were not an impediment to the ink, with chief electoral officer Sy Mamabolo dismissing this as a form of disinformation and fake news.

“It is not true that you can’t vote with fake nails. The indelible ink is effective and it is one of a number of safeguards to protect the integrity of the results,” he stated.

– Staff Reporter