The community of Cunningmore B in Bushbuckridge waited in anticipation to receive their favourite son, Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola on Tuesday, 15 December 2020. Minister Lamola returned home to officiate a Ministerial Public Victim-Offender Dialogue (VOD) as well as to hand over newly constructed grandstands of a revamped sports field at Mchaka High School. Briefing the Minister and other dignitaries, Regional Commissioner of Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West, Mr Tlabo Thokolo outlined Department Correctional Services (DCS) approach to forge working partnerships with other government institutions, non-governmental organisations, faith-based formations and the traditional leadership, to end the vicious cycle of crime in society. “As Correctional Services, we believe that corrections is a societal responsibility,” he affirmed.
The event kicked-off with a tour of the sports facility which was constructed by DCS using offender labour, where the Minister unveiled a plaque to mark the official hand over of the facility. As part of the Ministerial Corporate Social Responsibility initiative, Minister Lamola said that engagements are ensuing with the South African National Lottery, SAN Parks and other potential partners, with the view to rollout similar projects to other parts of Mpumalanga and across the nation.
The Minister said proper sports facilities are critical in balancing the lives of the learners in terms of the core business of the school, as different talents of learners are identified early and nurtured appropriately so they can be successful in their chosen fields of trade later in life. He also indicated that Correctional Services is able to partner with the Department of Basic Education to fix broken school desks and do other maintenance work at the schools, such as painting, plumbing and so onc. “We are doing this so that the offenders can be seen by the community paying back for their crime. It must not only be them coming to apologise, but the community must see offenders doing something to resolve societal problems,” said Minister Lamola.
Thereafter, Minister Ronald Lamola, MEC of Social Development in Mpumalanga, Ms Thandi Shongwe, Chief Whip of the Bushbuckridge Local Municipality, Cllr Leornard Malomane and other esteemed guests proceeded to the venue where the much anticipated VOD session was hosted. The COVID-19 compliant host venue provided a platform for the perpetrators of crime to humble themselves before their victims and the broader community, to plead for forgiveness for their heinous crimes. The nature of the criminal offences they committed range from rape, assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm (GBH) and murder. One after the other, the offenders stood before their victims and the community to admit to their wrongs and to plead for forgiveness.
One of the offenders, Kevin Manyika (42) who was sentenced to life imprisonment for rape, testified that the programmes offered by DCS have made him to appreciate the wrongfulness of his actions. He warned the youth to shun the life of crime. Regina Nonyane (33) who is out on parole spoke about the pain of being rejected by her community after she was released on parole after serving three of her 6-year sentence, for murdering her brother in 2016. “I have come to seek forgiveness because now I know the harm I have caused in my community and society at large,” she said.
The dialogue, which was organised on the eve of the National Day of Reconciliation on 16 December was the ideal precursor, and accorded with the overriding theme and spirit as articulated by President Cyril Ramaphosa during his address to the nation, when he said; “This should be a time when we commit ourselves to build bridges and celebrate the splendour of our diversity, as displayed in our languages, our cultures, our faiths, and our histories.”