As part of assessing and monitoring the state of affairs in correctional facilities, the Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services, led by the Chairperson of the Committee, Mr Bulelani Magwanishe, embarked on an oversight visit to Barberton Management Area, in Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West (LMN) region on 25 January 2022. Also in attendance was representatives from the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DoJ) and Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI).
The Area Commissioner (AC) of Barberton Management Area, Midjohn Mhlongo, gave an overview of the management area, focusing primarily on the Self-Sufficiency and Sustainability Framework (SSSF) projects implemented by the management area and the achievements thereof, including the bakery which supplies bread to other management areas in the region. He also reflected on the impact of the shortage of officials, delays in refurbishing dilapidated buildings, overcrowding, abscondment by parolees and influx of foreign national inmates.
Adding to the challenges raised, LMN Regional Commissioner (RC), Tlabo Thokolo, said the shortage of medical professional staff at correctional centres has a negative impact towards operations in the department. “Professionals like Nurses and Doctors leave the Department to other institutions that are offering better incentives and this is a challenge we are confronted with,” said RC Thokolo.
Reacting to the briefing by the DCS, the Committee’s Chairperson, Mr Magwanishe, expressed concern that the DPWI is not responding to maintenance challenges adequately. “Buildings are dilapidating and there is no maintenance. This can pose a high risk, and if we don’t take decisive actions, everything will collapse,” he said. He further advised DCS to address some of the minor maintenance and repairs by utilizing offender labour, instead of waiting for DPWI.
The Committee applauded and recognized the continuous effort by Barberton Management Area for its efforts to create a conducive environment for children in their facility, by ensuring that children who are born inside the facilities while their mothers are incarcerated, are not kept in the facility when they are above two years old.
Appreciating the work of the Portfolio Committee, acting National Commissioner Makgothi Thobakgale was pleased with the conduct and discussions between its members and DCS officials. Notwithstanding resource constraints, Commissioner Thobakgale said that DCS is committed to serve the people of South Africa. Furthermore, he emphasized the importance of DCS becoming more self-sufficient and sustainable to ensure continuation of operations in a more cost effective and efficient manner. He also commended all regions, management areas and officials in DCS who have joined hands to ensure that the department performs according to expectation.
As part of their oversight work, the Portfolio Committee visited Medium B Correctional Centre, hospital, kitchen, school, bakery, the orchard where they planted orange trees. The last stop was Barberton Community Corrections where they interacted directly with the people on the ground to solicit feedback about service delivery by government.