On 07 June 2021, Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola, together with his Deputy, Nkosi Phathekile Holomisa, officially handed over a newly built house to the Zungu family in KwamaDondo, Weenen, KwaZulu-Natal Region. The house, which was built by offenders, is a collaborative project between the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) and the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) to assist the Zungu family that was living under dire conditions in a dilapidated house.
The SABC exposed the dire conditions of the child headed household who were living in a dilapidated house and under extreme poverty. They highlighted the plight of the family and became the voice to the voiceless as part of their public mandate. It was through the skills of offenders, the voice of the SABC, and the generosity of business owners as well as the efforts of community members, that the Zungu family now has a beautiful and a fully furnished house. The furniture was manufactured by inmates.
The chairperson of the SABC Board, Mr Bongumusa Makhathini, expressed his gratitude to DCS for partnering with the broadcaster and working together to create a better life for the Zungu family. “South Africa is going through a difficult time, and often, one can be overwhelmed by the enormity of the task to assist many people, but together, look at what we have accomplished,” said Mr Makhathini. He further commended the offenders and other stakeholders for building the house in just one month.
Overwhelmed with mixed emotions of gratitude and being taken back to how difficult life used to be, Ms Nomusa Zungu, could not hold back her tears. During an interview after the event, she reflected on the difficult life she lived with her younger siblings, after the passing of their mother who was killed in a brutal manner. “We lived under extreme poverty conditions and we lost hope, I had to drop out of school when I was doing Grade 5, to take care of my siblings as I am the eldest,” said the emotional Zungu. However, she expressed her unwavering gratitude to Correctional Services and the offenders for the newly built house, which they now can call it their home. “My perception on offenders, has through this project, changed. I used to think of offenders as dangerous people and not capable of doing good deeds, but going forward, I will see them as rehabilitated people who given a chance, can contribute positively to society,” she added”
In his address, Minister Lamola acknowledged the inter-governmental relations and stakeholder partnership displayed during this project of building the Zungu family a dignified house. “Today we are turning a new lease of life for the Zungu family, a new beginning for the community of KwamaDondo” said Minister Lamola.
He said through the rehabilitation programme, DCS offers offenders different skills to assist them when they are released, to enable them to find employment or create their own businesses. Some of the skills include brick laying, upholstery and plumbing, to mention a few.
Minister Lamola further discouraged community members of KwamaDondo from vengeance. “We understand that this house will not bring back the mother of this house, and we also understand the pain you are still enduring, however, we need to have trust in our law enforcement agencies,” said Minister Lamola.
He further assured the Zungu family and the community of kwamaDondo that the law enforcement agencies will do their work on resolving the murder of Ms Zungu. He encouraged the community to bring forward any information that might lead to the South African Police Service (SAPS) making a breakthrough in the case. “To the community, please protect the Zungu family as your sisters and children. Continue working together with councillors and traditional leaders to address some of the challenges in the area” he concluded.
Deputy Minister, Nkosi Phathekile Holomisa, in his closing remarks, expressed his appreciation and thanked all the stakeholders who worked together with the DCS and the SABC. He also commended the offenders for their role in this project.
“We want our offenders to use the skills that they have learned in our centres for the benefit of communities. The building of the Zungu house symbolizes the Department of Correctional Services’ commitment to ploughing back to the community and empowering victims of crime through offender labour as part of a restorative justice system.