In pursuance of the mission to combat the recent spate of violent incidents in correctional facilities, the Department of Correctional Services (DCS), is adopting modern strategies and implementation plans to enhance its security capability. Fifty-six (56) female officials working at maximum correctional centres from all six regions of the department have successfully completed the Security (self-defence) Training, and seventy-eight (78) officials completed an integrated Emergency Support Teams training for both female and male officials which took place at Kroonstad and Zonderwater Training Colleges, respectively.
In his keynote address during the certification ceremony held at Kroonstad Training College in Free State and Northern Cape (FS/NC) region on 18 March 2022, acting National Commissioner Makgothi Thobakgale said that as South Africa commemorates Human Rights Month, DCS should also intensify its efforts to create a just and fair workplace for everyone, especially women. The government launched the 2022 Human Rights Month programme under the theme: “The Year of Unity and Renewal: Protecting and Preserving our Human Rights Gains,” to remember and honour those who helped us achieve freedom and democracy.
The acting National Commissioner mentioned that some of the incidents occurring in correctional facilities involve gangs, and others include offender-on-offender, offender-on-official, or official-on-offender incidents. Furthermore, Commissioner Thobakgale said that the mandate of DCS is to keep inmates safe and secure while also rehabilitating them; and that correctional officials’ safety and well-being should not be compromised.
“At our most recent National Operations Centre (NOC) meeting, while deliberating on a presentation on Assault Trends Analysis in correctional facilities, I emphasized that the recent types of recurring security incidents and related violations, which occur on a near-daily basis in correctional facilities, are a serious cause for concern. Officials’ use of force, as a way of restoring order can only be justified in severe situations, when all other options have failed. Instruments of restraint, such as tonfas, handcuffs, chains, leg-irons, and other restraints, should not be used as punishment,” said Commissioner Thobakgale.
Thobakgale echoed what the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola, said previously about instilling a new culture of discipline and accountability among officials at all levels. He added that this will be accomplished through structured training that meets the needs of the Department, and also through the capacitation of officials to deliver services in accordance with the Department’s vision, mission, values, and objectives.
Commissioner Thobakgale also shared a statement made by the Deputy Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Nkosi Phathekile Holomisa, who invoked the spirit of Charlotte Maxeke, a pioneer, activist, artist, intellectual, internationalist and visionary, and said that she represented the power and responsibility of women in changing the environment in which they work in, despite the fact that most environments are still dominated by men. “Deputy Minister Holomisa underscored the constant struggle for the attainment, and protection of women’s rights during a time when the country battles with the devastating gender-based violence,” said Thobakgale.
He concluded by saying that the DCS has the capacity to support officials. He spoke avidly about improving working conditions, stating that resources should be made available and areas where there are shortages should be addressed, to avoid a detrimental impact on performance. He encouraged the trainees to return to their correctional facilities to serve as ambassadors of the Department, and to maintain a new culture of self-discipline. He also advised the trainees to look after their health as DCS can only thrives better with officials that are strong and healthy.
Chief Deputy Commissioner (CDC): Human Resources, Cynthia Ramulifho, commended the trainees for their dedication and discipline. She stated that they were able to successfully run two trainings in two Colleges simultaneously, and that they will continue to do more. She expressed gratitude to the regions for nominating and releasing officials to be part of these security trainings where they performed exceptionally well.
The programme concluded with an award ceremony in which trainees received certificates of completion. Ms Anastasia Jacobs and Ms Keromamang Betty Lemp, both from KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) region, were named overall winners in the Self-Defense and Emergency Support Teams Training categories, respectively.