In an effort to ensure that the Nelson Mandela Rules, which entail the standard minimum rules for the treatment of offenders are adhered to, the Deputy Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Nkosi Phathekile Holomisa, conducted a working visit at Bethal Management Area under Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West (LMN) Region on 23 June 2023. The purpose of the visit was to assess the state of infrastructure, interact with both officials and inmates, as well as ensuring that effective incarceration and rehabilitation programmes are implemented.
The Department of Correctional Services (DCS), is obligated to provide secure and safe environment for both inmates and officials in the correctional centres, 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).
Deputy Minister Holomisa commenced his visit with a walk-about tour at Standerton correctional centre, one of the new generation correctional centres, that encompasses modern infrastructure features and uses an Integrated Security System. He visited the control room, kitchen, hospital unit, skills and training units as well as cells where inmates are accommodated. During his interaction with inmates who were attending their skills development and training programmes, Deputy Minister Holomisa encouraged them to continue participating in all the programmes offered by the department so that they also can contribute towards economic development of the country and creating safer communities.
The walk-about tour was followed by a working session, held at Bethal where the acting Area Commissioner, Dominick Zulu presented on the state of the management area. Bethal Management Area comprises of six Correctional Centres namely, Emerlo, Piet Retief, Standerton, Bethal, Volkrust and Geluk correctional centres. He also gave a synopsis on some of the challenges experienced by the management area including unscheduled electricity cuts and the non-existence of telecommunication system since 2017. The session was also attended by all Heads of Correctional Centres (HCCS) within the management area, who raised concerns around lack of training opportunities for officials, filling of vacant security posts, provisioning of uniform for officials and departmental promotional policy amongst others.
LMN Regional Commissioner (RC) Tlabo Thokolo and Chief Deputy Commissioner (CDC): Remand Detention, Anna Molepo weighed in to address some of the challenges raised by HCCs. CDC Molepo said that the departmental promotional policy is at an advanced stage and it is with the labour unions for deliberations. RC Thokolo confirmed to HCCs that the uniform for officials was received by the region which is currently working on a distribution plan to all centres across the region. Other challenges were registered and will be elevated to the monthly management committee meetings. Deputy Minister Holomisa urged that an executive management report responding to issues raised be submitted to his office before the end of the first week of July 2022.
Representing the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services (JICS), Mr Murasiet Mentoor gave a detailed presentation about the outcome of the inspection visit they conducted at Bethal Management Area. He applauded the management area for timeous mandatory reporting of incidents occurring in the 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. He further stated that a professional working relationship has been maintained between JICS and the management area based on mutual trust and respect. “Most of the complaints, are resolved due to participation at the Visitor’s Committee Meetings between DCS and external Stakeholders” said Mentoor.
In his closing remarks, Deputy Minister Holomisa emphasized on the importance of incarceration and rehabilitation. He raised a concern over the lack of interaction between management and officials who are at the coalface (i.e. Correctional Officer I, II and III) working to ensure successful incarceration of offenders as well as ensuring the safety of South Africans. “It is therefore important that we continuously engage with officials placed at the correctional centres, in order to have a successful incarceration of those sentenced. These officials may provide solutions that address challenges that were raised, which will positively contribute towards enabling the department to deliver on its mandate.” said Deputy Minister Holomisa.