Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola, held a public lecture at the University of Venda on 01 August 2022 where he interrogated with students on a variety of topics. The lecture focused on matters such as transnational organised crime, drugs, prison reforms and strengthening the effectiveness and the integrity of the criminal justice system.
The Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the university, Dr Bernard Nthambeleni said that the lecture was held during a historical year in the life of the institution – 2022 marks the 40th anniversary since the university was founded. He gave special appreciation to Minister Lamola, who is an alumnus of the University, for playing a crucial role in getting the Department of Correctional Services, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the University to collaborate in order to achieve better outcomes on a number of areas.
Addressing the audience, Minister Lamola said the rationale for engaging with the university was informed by the conviction that the fight against Gender-Based Violence (GBV), patriarchy, human trafficking, drugs, cybercrimes, and other social challenges will not be overcome without academia (researchers and scholars) playing their role in terms of research and finding solutions to difficult challenges that society is facing. “Research, development and innovation should be at the centre of our societal resolve. It is against this background that we deemed it critical for the UNODC to partner with the University of Venda to help resolve some of the challenges that society is facing today,” explained Minister Lamola.
He congratulated the university on its 40th anniversary.
Minister Lamola stated that DCS has a formal Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the University of Venda in terms of which students in various specialised fields such as social workers can do their in-service training in DCS. “There are 11 student social workers currently doing their in-service training at Thohoyandou Management Area,” he said.
He announced that the MoU will also enable student criminologists and those in the field of agriculture and crop production to be placed in DCS to do their practical training.
On the subject of sexual offences, Minister Lamola indicated that there is a new law that came into effect on 31 July 2022, which establishes a legal duty to report to authorities when we have knowledge, reasonable belief, or suspicion that a sexual offence has been committed against a vulnerable person.
He argued that a paradigm shift is required if South Africa is to mount a valiant and successful fight to end the scourge of GBV. He called on members of society and multi-sectoral organisations to work together to prevent sexual offences from happening. “We need to build a social compact and understanding that the fight against crime must start at the level of prevention,” he said.
Head of the UNODC Regional Office for Southern Africa, Ms Jane Marie Ongolo, said the UNODC intend to work closely with the University to advance programmes on prison reforms, crime prevention, and criminal justice. Ms Ongolo added that the interaction at the university was also aimed at commemorating the International Day against trafficking in persons which is observed on the 30th of July every year. The theme for 2022 is: “Use and abuse of technology”.
Ms Ongolo explained that human trafficking is a serious crime which results in human beings taken from the communities and held hostage for the purpose of exploitation for profit, and likened it to modern day slavery. “Traffickers usually use fake employment agencies, false promises of education and job opportunities to trick the victims,” she added.
She mentioned that perpetrators of this crime are increasingly using the internet to lure innocent victims. “Around the world, half of the victims of human trafficking were exploited for sex, 38 percent for forced labour, and six (6) percent were subjected to forced criminal activities.
The UNODC works with countries by offering practical assistance and encouraging common approaches to action through partnerships with governments, private sector, academia, research institutions and families, hence the visit to the institution.
UNODC has a mandate to assist countries to build and reform their prison systems, implementing non-custodial sanctions/sentences, put measures to ensure compliance with human rights principles. “This is done through the Nelson Mandela Rules,” explained Ongolo.Students grabbed the opportunity to engage and pose questions to the panel, including the challenge of overcrowding in DCS facilities and the impact thereof on rehabilitation programmes offered to offenders. Acting National Commissioner, Makgothi Thobakgale outlined the offender rehabilitation from admission stage. “We do an assessment within the first seven days of an offender being admitted into a facility. We do a physical assessment as well as an assessment that looks at psychological factors, which enable us to develop a tailor-made sentence plan for each offender,” explained Commissioner Thobakgale.
Students grabbed the opportunity to engage and pose questions to the panel, including the challenge of overcrowding in DCS facilities and the impact thereof on rehabilitation programmes offered to offenders.
Acting National Commissioner, Makgothi Thobakgale outlined the offender rehabilitation from admission stage. “We do an assessment within the first seven days of an offender being admitted into a facility. We do a physical assessment as well as an assessment that looks at psychological factors, which enable us to develop a tailor-made sentence plan for each offender,” explained Commissioner Thobakgale.