Three magnanimous parolees demonstrated an inspiring sense of Ubuntu, when, out of their own volition, they decided to produce and donate 400 cloth face masks for use by inmates at the Rooigrond Medium B Correctional Centre, Limpopo/Mpumalanga/North West (LMN) Region.
This was their way of giving practical effect to the call by President Cyril Ramaphosa for all citizens to wear cloth face masks to avert the rapid spread of Covid-19. In heeding the President’s call, parolee Daniel Leshi came up with an initiative to design cloth face masks for offenders in correctional facilities. He approached fellow parolees, Thabang Maleke and Thuso Thebe, to join hands with him in completing the project. The project was inspired by the current coronavirus pandemic, and was also dedicated to the memory of late DCS official, Desiree Saane, who was working at the Rooigrond Art and Craft Workshop.
“After spending twenty years in a correctional facility, being familiar with the environment, and looking at the situation the country is facing, I had to say yes to the call. We are so grateful to have worked under Ms Saane’ supervision. She was dedicated and empowered us with tailoring skills. Today, we are able to sustain ourselves because of her and the Department of Correctional Services (DCS),” Leshi said.
The Covid-19 infection rate and daily reporting by the Department of Health on confirmed cases made parolee Thabang Maleke to agree to Leshi’s proposal. The initiative struck a chord with Maleka, who spent half of his sentence at Rooigrond Correctional Centre Medium A and B for attempted murder. He knew that the preventative measures outlined by the Health Department would be difficult to apply in a correctional centre environment. However, the recommendation of cloth face masks would at least prevent rapid transmission of the virus among inmates.
‘’We had to work under pressure thinking about our fellow brothers and sisters in correctional facilities, and had to deliver on time so we can help prevent rapid spread and flatten the curve if there was to be an outbreak at Rooigrond,’’ said Maleke. On the other hand, another parolee, Thuso Thebe, who was sentenced to twenty years for rape, advised the offenders to keep their cloth face masks clean by washing them daily and avoid borrowing masks from each other.’’
Upon receipt of the 400 cloth face masks, acting Area Commissioner Janet Herbst said, ‘’It is amazing how these parolees came with such a great initiative of thinking of those who are incarcerated in our care, in difficult times like this where the country and the world is faced with the Covid-19 pandemic which is new to all of us. As the Department, we are proud of you as you are a testimony that rehabilitation in correctional centres does indeed work. We take great courage from your benevolence and appreciate your work. The wearing of face masks is now part of our dress code, and you should continue to design more masks, for our communities to purchase, so you may be able to sustain yourselves and your families,’’ she concluded.