The Deputy Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Nkosi Phathekile Holomisa, described his 2-day working visit to Rooigrond Management Area on 31 August – 01 September 2021, as a resounding success and very insightful. The first stop of the two-legged visit was at Mahikeng Female Correctional Centre, where the Deputy Minister was joined by the Executive Mayor of Mahikeng Local Municipality, Cllr Betty Diakanyo, to assess the state of the facility, and conditions under which the inmates are incarcerated. “We thought that because this is the last day of Women’s Month, which is dedicated to fight for the rights of women in South Africa, we should come to encourage you to take advantage of the opportunities that you are given. The idea is that when you leave this place, you must be having skills that you can use in order to earn a living,” explained Nkosi Holomisa.
Executive Mayor Diakanyo beseeched the women to speak out and not remain silent when they are abused. She also pledged that the Municipality, as the local sphere of government responsible for service delivery in the area, will forge closer cooperation with DCS to assist resolve some of the challenges facing the Rooigrond Management Area. The Head of Mafikeng Female Correctional Centre, Herminah Xhalabile, said all, but three inmates at the facility have been vaccinated. She said some of the activities that inmates engage in include bead making, bible covering, artwork, sheet making and a vegetable garden. The facility has an approved bedspace capacity of 100 but currently accommodate 69 inmates and an infant.
Thereafter, the Deputy Minister and entourage had a brief session with officials, wherein the Deputy Minister conveyed the Ministry’s appreciation to the officials for the commendable work they do, and implored them to seize the opportunity to interact with him and the Executive Management from Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West (LMN) Region and Head Office. “I urge you to use this limited opportunity to raise challenges you are facing, and to make meaningful input on policies governing the operations of the Department of Correctional Services (DCS),” he said.
Day two kicked-off at Retlametswe Special School where Deputy Minister Holomisa donated vegetables harvested in the LMN region and a vegetable garden which will be maintained by parolees under the astute guidance of DCS agricultural specialists.
Retlametswe Special School caters for about 190 local learners with special educational needs from grades 1 to 5. “I saw the dedication of the officials here and they are not just inward looking, but are also outward looking, because we are part of society, and as we say, ‘Corrections is a societal responsibility’. Some of the projects that they are sponsoring in the form of a garden for the school of the underprivileged learners with special educational needs, is something that ought not to be taken lightly because they are using the skills that we have within the Department to impart to our parolees,” said Nkosi Holomisa.
The next stop was Rooigrond Correctional Centre where the Deputy Minister and guests toured the facility and interacted with officials and inmates. This was followed by a tour of the farm area. “We are highly impressed with the contribution that Rooigrond Management Area is making towards fulfilling the objective of a DCS that is self-sufficient and self-sustainable. I was highly impressed with the farm that we have here, in that it produces the food that we need, leading not just for us to being self-sufficient in terms of providing food to our inmates, but also saving a lot of money for the state, that we would have had to spend if we were still relying on service providers from outside,” remarked Deputy Minister Holomisa.
The visit culminated in an interactive session between the Deputy Minister, Executives from the LMN region and Head Office, and officials and stakeholders such as organised labour, Department of Public Works and Infrastructure, and the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services. LMN Regional Commissioner, Tlabo Thokolo gave a high level overview of the Region’s performance, including challenges and remedial actions that are being implemented. The following are some of the issues raised by officials and organised labour:
- Ageing motor vehicle fleet that needs to be disposed
- Lack of ambulances
- Filling of vacancies for nurses and other professionals
- Criteria used for the filling of vacant posts
Chief Deputy Commissioner (CDC): Incarceration and Corrections, Makgothi Thobakgale, said the budget is being reprioritized to support Management Areas in line with the Department’s centre centric approach. He also mooted plans to insource the production of uniform. CDC: Community Corrections, Anna Molepo said the Department is forging ahead to acquire land to build Community Corrections offices. She mentioned that plans are at an advanced stage to acquire new motor vehicle fleet as well as the appointment of Social Auxiliary Workers. CDC: GITO, Nthabiseng Mosupye reported that plans are afoot to ensure the rollout of the telephone system at Standerton and Tzaneen Correctional Centres. She said GITO is exploring the implementation of a surveillance solutions to augment security in the correctional facilities, including the use of drones. CDC: Remand Detention, Moeketsi Mashibini, said DCS and other sister departments in the cluster are in constant engagement with the National Treasury, to explore how they can enhance their human resource capacities, within the constraints of a shrinking budget.
Deputy Minister capped off the visit by mandating the LMN Regional Executive, working in tandem with Head Office, to compile and, within two weeks, submit a report on the challenges identified and proposed remedial actions.