On 15 October 2021, the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) held a Victim-Offender Dialogue (VOD) at All Saints Sports Field, in Engcobo, Eastern Cape region. The VOD is a process in which the victim of a crime and the offender are given an opportunity to meet face-to-face. This VOD follows a taxi violence incident that took place in 2001. Members of the Border-Alliance Taxi Association were ambushed and shot on their way from a Taxi Indaba that was held in Durban. As a result of the shooting, others died while others sustained critical injuries.
The Chief Deputy Commissioner (Community Corrections), Anna Molepo said that the purpose of this VOD is to initiate justice restoration and reconciliation between the victims and offenders, as well as instigating the reintegration process of the offender back into the community. “We hope that after this dialogue, the victims, both primary and secondary, will receive further healing and justice” said Molepo.
In his keynote address, Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola, called for a more victim-centric approach on correctional programmes. He further expressed how the VOD is a dynamic and difficult session which necessitates a careful interventions, as it includes giving the victims an opportunity to ask long held questions. Lamola applauded the victims for engaging in this process and for showing great bravery. Although there can never be justification to actions of these offenders, Lamola assured the victims that DCS will facilitate further partnerships with other partners in both government and private sector, to ensure that they receive all the necessary assistance such as counselling and other means to better their hardships, which emanated from the crime.
Furthermore, Lamola appealed for greater cooperation between taxi associations. He gave a stern warning that the long arm of the law will spare no mercy for those who break the law. “You should learn from this experience that no amount of violence can ever end conflicts. We all want to see the taxi industry succeed” said Lamola.
Mzandile Mtshemla, one of the offenders who shot and killed members of the Border-Alliance taxi association, begged for forgiveness from the victims. He first detailed how the crime happened and what was the motive behind it. “I now understand that what I did was wrong, I also wish to thank DCS officials for the programmes they offered to rehabilitate us, I am now a changed person” said Mtshemla. He is now released on parole.
The victims of this crime were also given an opportunity to share the pain and trauma experienced. Ntombekhaya Yekile, whose husband was wounded during the crime and later died, expressed how the death of her husband left the family in dire poverty conditions. She said, although this cannot bring her husband back, she forgives the men who shot him.
The VOD session also included the handover of school desks and chairs to various schools in Engcobo Local Municipality by Minister Lamola. These desks and chairs were manufactured by DCS offenders as part of offender labour programme. Lamola also donated 10 wheelchairs to members of the Engcobo communities living with disabilities. The wheelchairs were assembled by offenders.