Patricia Setlai championing the drive to lure offenders to vaccinate


In a quest to prevent severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19, South Africa has embarked on a massive COVID-19 vaccination rollout programme, to ensure the country reaches herd immunity as quickly as possible.

As part of the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) vaccination rollout programme for both officials and inmates, the Free State and Northern Cape Region has joined the drive to ramp up the vaccination for all inmates under its care. The mass vaccination commenced on 19 July and is expected to run until 07 August 2021.

Grootvlei and Kimberley Management Areas are currently leading the pack in the region as they started in earnest with their vaccination drives, with Grootvlei Medium B recording quite a considerable number in terms of vaccination of inmates.  To this end, a total of 214 offenders out of 235 were vaccinated within the first two days. This high uptake of vaccination translates to 91% of the offender population at Grootvlei Medium B Correctional Centre.

The Head of Centre for Grootvlei Medium B, Patricia Setlai, has left no stone unturned in making sure that offenders in her centre heed the call by the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola, who encouraged both inmates and officials to vaccinate. Setlai also went an extra mile where she conducted information sessions to ensure that all offenders in her centre have all the relevant information about vaccines, their efficacy, the importance of vaccination and the common side effects.

Ms. Setlai promotes healthy working relations amongst officials, and between officials and offenders, thus her officials were able to hit the right note as they encourage offenders to vaccinate.

This then translates into an atmosphere of trust, respect and interdependence between herself, her staff and offenders in her care.  It therefore came as no surprise to see so many offenders heeding her call, since the building blocks had already been laid.

Setlai’s professionalism and diligence flows from her vast experience as a correctional official.  “I was appointed by the Department of Correctional Services in the year 2000, and started working at Grootvlei Medium B. I was later promoted to SCO post in 2010 as a Unit Manager at Tswelopele Correctional Centre. Due to my hard work, dedication and service excellence, I was promoted to ASD post as Head of Correctional Centre (Grootvlei Med B) in 2014,” she said.

All efforts are also made to keep Covid-19 at bay at Medium B, with awareness campaigns held on regular intervals by both nurses and officials. “Together with my team, we make time to listen to offenders’ complaints, requests and concerns.  I also play a motherly role and ensure that I treat all offenders the same way I would treat my own children, siblings or family members. We also encourage and ensure cleanliness by conducting inspections and spot checks from time to time. All officials and offenders are provided with Personal Protective Equipment such as face masks which they are compelled to wear at all material times,” said Setlai.

Setlai has commended and heeded the directive by management to all Heads of Correctional Centres and officials to ensure that inmates are educated and encouraged to vaccinate, and continue to comply with all health protocols.  “This is one opportune moment which may never come again, thus is it important that all avenues at our disposal are used to lure inmates and, similarly, officials to vaccinate,” Setlai concluded.

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