The Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola is currently in Vienna, Austria, leading a high-level South African delegation including among others the National Commissioner of the Department of Correctional Services (DCS), Makgothi Thobakgale; Director-General of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, Advocate Doctor Mashabane; South Africa’s Ambassador to Austria, Slovenia and Slovakia and Permanent Representative of South Africa to the International Organisations in Vienna at the eleventh session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention against Transitional Organised Crime.
Minister Lamola yesterday (17 October 2022) addressed the Group of Friends of the Nelson Mandela Rules, Penal and Prison Reform, Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Section of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Minister Lamola invoked the memory of the iconic former statesman, Nelson Mandela, particularly the virtues he embodied such as human dignity, selflessness and being a champion of human rights for the vulnerable groups in society, including prisoners. “His legacy of peace, integrity, justice, and unparalleled courage still reverberates loudly across the globe. In honour of his glorious memory, we commit ourselves to deepen the fight for dignity, rule of law, equality, fairness and justice for all people, especially the most vulnerable in society,” Minister Lamola said.
Minister Lamola outlined the measures that South Africa implemented to mitigate the risk posed by COVID-19 inside its correctional facilities, and further expounded on the necessary safeguards that have been put in place to ensure adherence to the Rules. “We did not only elaborate on what could be done to ensure good health, human dignity, safety and security in prisons during the height of the pandemic, but we also looked at measures to address any systemic deficiencies which render prisons vulnerable to health risks, such as overcrowding,” he added. He explained that in 2019, South Africa released approximately 13 903 low risk sentenced offenders and probationers across all correctional facilities in the country. This resulted in the reduction of overcrowding to 28% at correctional facilities.
Drawing inspiration and lessons from the life and legacy of former President Mandela, Minister Lamola beseeched the Group of Friends of the Nelson Mandela Rules across the globe to affirm and protect the human rights of vulnerable groups and show compassion towards those incarcerated in correctional centres in different parts of the world. He reaffirmed South Africa’s resolute stance and commitment to the implementation of the Rules, based on the principle of shared responsibility for the rehabilitation and correction of inmates.
Minister Lamola called for an end to the stigmatisation of ex-inmates and denying them economic opportunities to eke out a living. He said rejection of ex-inmates by society undermines efforts to break the cycle of crime, leading to some relapsing into a life of crime.
He further mentioned that South Africa has launched the Self-Sufficiency and Sustainability Framework (SSSF) which is a strategic intervention to empower those behind bars with vocational and artisanal skills in order to increase their employment opportunities within society upon release. “Through this intervention, we are able to produce agricultural goods in our correctional services farms, uniforms in the textile industries, office and home furniture in our production workshops, daily bread in our bakeries, eggs in our poultry farms and beef,” added Minister Lamola. He said that the net effect of this intervention is that all correctional facilities no longer procure pork and eggs, as enough is produced for inmates’ rations, resulting in the country saving approximately 1 million euros in government expenditure to date.
He concluded his address by encouraging all nations of the world to draw inspiration from Nelson Mandela’s strength and dignity, and to transform their prisons into Correctional Centres which reform the offending character of prisoners through effective rehabilitation programmes.