The National Task Team (NTT) began its Operation Buya Mthetho (meaning bring back the law) with a security sweep and clean-up operation in the least expecting Eastern Cape Region on 16 December 2018. This special operation is managed independently from Operation Vala activities currently underway across the department’s 243 correctional centres. Chief Security Officer (CSO) Lucky Mthethwa is the team’s commander with 68 Emergency Support Team (EST) members from four regions. More than 80 percent of the team members are new to the NTT.
A clear management presence and professionalism on all operational levels saw the team work tirelessly in the humid Eastern Cape Region conditions without complaints. “The activation of the NTT was prompted by the analysis undertaken by National Security during 2018, which noted an escalation of security breaches”, said CSO Mthethwa.
The team’s first security sweep was at St Albans Management Area in Port Elizabeth. During the search, offenders were instructed to exit their cells with their hands raised and fingers spread out. They were patted down and then escorted individually to collect their belongings for an intensified search.
Relaxed security functioning over the population resulted in offenders at the Maximum Correctional Centre being in control and bringing about persistent violence against officials. The lack of a full staff complement strains the few officials who remain responsible for basic security processes such as searching. During the NTT’s deployment, 27 officials were on Injury on Duty (IOD) leave at the maximum centre alone.
Offenders at St Albans Maximum demonstrated unruly behaviour during the task team’s search operations. Electrical supply was deliberately tampered with, windows were broken and offenders verbalised profanities. This did not disturb the NTT and they remained focussed on the task at hand.
From St Albans Management Area, the team pounced on an unsuspecting Grahamstown Correctional Centre where 50 Mandrax pills were confiscated from one offender. East London’s Maximum Correctional Centre was of critical concern because of the recent escalation of violence there. The NTT also paid a surprise night visit to Mdantsane Correctional Centre to root out a rampant drug supply. Six kilograms dagga was recorded at the end of the search.
Among other startling findings were official documents such as Route Orders (G326), lock-up sheets, medical files, officials’ performance assessments, system generated reports (i.e detailed reports in the possession of offenders). The Eastern Cape operation ended on 24 December 2018.