The White Paper on Corrections in South Africa recognises that no correctional system can achieve its objectives without a range of healthy external partnerships. To this end, delegations from Madibeng and Tshwane Magisterial Districts accompanied by representatives from the National Prosecuting Authority and Legal Aid South Africa, visited Kgoši Mampuru II Management Area on 22 and 29 April 2021 respectively, to inspect the overall state of the centres and operations. The White Paper recognises the importance of forums that are formulated to advance penal advocacy. It is through such forums that the corrections machinery can be better equipped to handle the burden of the high crime rate in the country.
Section 85 of the Correctional Services Act, mandates the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services (JICS) to play an oversight role of correctional centres, to assess the treatment of inmates and the conditions under which they are incarcerated. To further strengthen the available of oversight mechanisms, various magisterial district offices have been tasked with the responsibility of inspecting correctional centres on a quarterly basis.
The Regional Court President, Modibedi Djaje called for an improved working relationship between DCS and the courts. “As a democratic state, the law requires us to come see for ourselves whether inmates are being treated well and living in good conditions,” he said. The acting Chief Magistrate of Tshwane Magisterial District, Ignatius du Preez added that apart from the inspection, the visit was also intended to forge relations, and for the magistracy to learn and understand how DCS works. He said this approach will assist all stakeholders in the criminal justice value chain to work together to find solutions rather than to criticize and find faults with the correctional system.
Some of the thorny issues discussed were the misunderstanding about sentences that run concurrently, paying of bail at correctional facilities, incomplete warrants, proper writing of sentences, influx of foreign nationals in correctional centres, overcrowding and magistrates who are not willing to assist with clarity and rectifications after court proceedings. Mr Djaje indicated that forums must be instituted to address challenges of the criminal justice cluster. However, the magistrates indicated that some of the issues do not need to wait for the forums, but can be remedied if communication can be improved between the courts and DCS.
Kgoši Mampuru II Area Commissioner, Emmanuel Khoza, indicated that DCS welcomes such interventions by the judiciary. He urged the magistracy to maintain an open line of communication with DCS, and said this will help to resolve issues speedily. “Such engagements are much needed because they give an opportunity for all to share ideas and see how best operational challenges can be addressed, thereby paving a way for continuous and close working relationships,” said Khoza.
The delegations visited the admission offices, hospital section, the farm at Odi Correctional Centre, COVID-19 quarantine and isolation sites, kitchens, virtual/onsite courts, offender cells, and courtyards. They also interviewed inmates about how they are treated by correctional officials, and afforded them an opportunity to share their general complaints. The magistrates applauded the DCS for a sterling job they are doing in the centres and the bravery in their duty to serve the country.