The Department of Correctional Services (DCS), is bestowed with the responsibility to provide secure and safe environment for both inmates and officials in the correctional centres, as well as instilling and promoting rehabilitation and corrections for offenders through care and developmental programmes. The Department is also mandated to control and manage all operations in the centres and impart effective security operations that are in-line with the Correctional Services Act (Act No. 111 of 1998). This overriding sentiment was emphasized during the Deputy Minister of Correctional Services, Nkosi Phathekile Holomisa’ s one-day operational visit to Upington Management Area, in the Free State/Northern Cape (FS\NC) region on 28 March 2022.
The purpose of the operational visit was to assess the quality of service delivery and inspect the facility to ensure that operations are run effectively, and that rehabilitation programmes are implemented as mandated by the Correctional Services Act. The White Paper on Corrections in South Africa, stipulates that rehabilitation is best facilitated through a holistic sentence planning process that engages the offender at all levels, including social, moral, spiritual, physical, work educational/intellectual and mental.
During his operational visit, Deputy Minister Holomisa emphasized that every human being is capable of change and transformation if given an opportunity. Addressing the inmates at Unit B of the centre, Deputy Minister Holomisa encouraged inmates to participate in all the programmes offered by the department for their own betterment, and to avoid recidivism. “Our plan is not to merely incarcerate you nor keep you away from the society, our desire is to successfully rehabilitate and ensure that you are reintegrated back to your communities,” said Deputy Minister Holomisa.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services (JICS), Vickash Misser, who formed part of the visiting delegation, voiced out a concern over the lack of an integrated justice system. This stemmed from a complaint on court appearance procedural processes by one of the inmates. He advised Area Commissioners to engage with their counterparts in the security cluster, including the South African Police Service (SAPS) and magistrates, to highlight the challenges faced by correctional centres. JICS’ role is to impartially inspect, investigate, report and make recommendations on the conditions in correctional and remand detention centres, as well as ensuring that human rights of inmates are protected.
The Deputy Minister’s visit was followed by a working session, held at the Upington TVET college, during which the Area Commissioner of Upington Management Area, Lionel Du Preeze outlined an overview of the state of the management area. The management area has three correctional centres namely, Upington, Springbok and Kuruman. Mr du Preeze also presented on the financial status, human resource management and challenges thereof as well as COVID-19 vaccination rollout in the management area. Acting National Commissioner, Makgothi Thobakgale weighed in during the robust discussions to address some of the challenges raised. These included the filling of vacant posts amongst others. Commissioner Thobakgale informed the session that the matter is prioritized during the monthly senior management committee meetings.
JICS Director responsible for Regions Management, Ntombizodwa Sibutha gave a detailed presentation about a working visit they conducted at Upington Management Area on 07 December 2020, which focused on a plethora of issues ranging from accommodation, health care, parole system to mention a few.
In his closing remarks, Deputy Minister Holomisa further encouraged senior managers to interact with their centre-based officials to monitor and ensure that operations in the centres are running smoothly, and implement all necessary measures to avoid any discrepancies that may hinder service delivery and obstruct the Department from achieving its mandate.
The session concluded with a walk-about at the nearby Marcus Mbetha Sindisa Secure School, led by Commissioner Thobakgale. The school and DCS will be embarking on a joint-project to provide upholstery training to offenders in the management area, to manufacture coffins. This is also in-line with the departmental programme on offender labour and skills development. These coffins will be donated to indigent families in the community.