John Mellecker once said, “Leadership is the creation of an environment in which others are able to self-actualize in the process of completing the job.”
True to the above, the acting National Commissioner of the Department of Correctional Services (DCS), Makgothi Thobakgale, gathered the core leaders of the Department at Leeuwkop Management Area, on 5 and 6 October 2021, to engage so that correct solutions are applied to usual challenges, to gain greater insight into the intricacies of DCS operations, and to solicit views on ways to realise the vision of providing the best correctional services for a safer South Africa. Thobakgale convened the two-day Area Commissioners’ (ACs) session, a first of its kind since he took the helm, to streamline critical deliverables and ensure that DCS continues to build on the significant strides recorded in redefining the purpose of corrections in South Africa.
Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola graced the occasion on the first day of the meeting, and outlined his expectations. Lamola commended the sterling work that is being done by Area Commissioners in a number of management areas he visited. In the same token, Lamola noted a number of centres that still require improvement. “One of the greatest areas of concern that Area Commissioners should be seized with is the lapse of security at our centres. Area Commissioners are supposed to champion security for both officials and inmates. They should ensure that the environment at their centres is conducive towards securing inmates safely and that the lives of officials, more in particular women, are safe,” he said.
The Minister decried the continued smuggling of contraband into the centres, and called on Area Commissioners to exercise the authority vested in them to root out rogue elements within the Department that aid and abet such acts. He called on the Executive leadership of the Department to ensure that body scanners are installed and maintained as a matter of urgency. Lamola also directed the managers to implement restorative justice in line with the paradigm shift towards a victim-centred criminal justice system.
Lamola also commended the Department for the effective measures it implemented to cushion the impact of COVID-19 on officials and inmates, including the effective rollout of the vaccination programme. He encouraged all eligible officials and inmates to vaccinate in order to save lives. “I took my jab publicly in the Johannesburg Management Area to demonstrate the safety of vaccines. As Area Commissioners, you must continue to reach out to your officials who have not yet received their jabs and allay their fears. We must reach population immunity in Correctional Services, this will save lives,” he said.
Lamola concluded his address by encouraging the managers not to lament about budget constraints, but instead to find ways to do more with less. To this end, he underscored the importance of implementing the DCS Self-Sufficiency and Sustainability Framework (SSSF).
Acting National Commissioner Thobakgale said the Department has adopted a zero tolerance approach to deviant behaviour by officials and inmates, which often result in security breaches and other sporadic disturbances at operational level. “The Department is fully aware of the environment within which it operates, and therefore, must utilize its resources to deal effectively with such sporadic occurrences. Hence, it is mandatory that any breach is fully investigated, and measures taken to restore normality almost immediately whilst taking strong action against those who may have transgressed – be they inmates, officials or any other person,” emphasized Thobakgale.
Thobakgale directed the Area Commissioners to ensure strict compliance with the DCS Code of Conduct, adding that boundary-violating behaviour by correctional officials with inmates, such as aiding an inmate in smuggling contraband and engaging in sexual contact with an inmate must be eliminated. “It must be re-iterated that safety, and security, in correctional facilities is of paramount importance, and will not be compromised,” declared Thobakgale.
The Regional Commissioners (RCs) of all six regions of the Department led their teams as each management area provided a status report on their state of human resources, financial status, self-sufficiency projects, investigations and disciplinary matters, operational and other challenges as well as proposed remedial actions.
Feedback on progress in respect of issues raised at the session will be assessed in two week’s time. These issues relate to, amongst others, internet connectivity, office equipment and IT systems, inefficient vehicle fleet, human resources and finance, DCS code of conduct for officials and inmates, community corrections, SSSF, supply chain as well as security infrastructure.
Thobakgale directed all Chief Deputy Commissioners (CDCs), RCs and ACs to urgently eliminate all bottlenecks that are hindering a conducive environment for effective service delivery in DCS.