Correctional Services champions restorative justice through Willowmore Victim-Offender Dialogue

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Screen Shot 2023-03-23 at 09.56.26In pursuit of its commitment to restorative justice, the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) hosted a Victim-Offender Dialogue (VOD), on 14 March 2023, at Willowmore in the Eastern Cape Province.

During the VOD session, parolee Mr Ayanda Mabomba, who was convicted for two crimes, murder in 2006 and rape in 2007 while on trial for his first crime, was placed on parole in 2017 after serving nine years, of an effective 18 years, imprisonment. Mr Mabomba delivered his public testimony, showed genuine remorse and asked for forgiveness from his two victims, Mr Clifton April (son of murder victim) and Ms Nomtha Jule (rape victim) and the community of Willowmore. He was forgiven by all the victims and applauded for taking this step. Both parolee and victim received certificates from a local businessman, Mr Horatius Strydom, related to economic opportunities to assist them in becoming self-reliant and business owners.
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The VOD is part of DCS’ restorative justice approach, which creates a platform for conflict resolution processes and actively involves offenders, victims of crime and communities in seeking closure, restoring peace and healing. It further provides an opportunity to victims of crime and offenders to engage face-to-face and testify on the ordeal of the crime committed, the impact thereof as well as identify harms and needs through accepting responsibilities and promoting reconciliation.

Deputy Director: Restorative Justice, Ms Nonosi Mokoena presented an overview of the session and stated that VOD is part of the many programmes offered by DCS to correct and rehabilitate offenders. Ms Mokoena also mentioned that during incarceration, offenders participate in rehabilitation programmes to turn their lives around and prepare for their reintegration back to their communities upon release. Although Willowmore is located in the Eastern Cape Province, its Community Corrections is under the supervision of Southern Cape Management Area in the Western Cape Region.

The VOD session was followed by a Community Imbizo, where the community of Willowmore and surrounding areas were given an opportunity to engage relevant stakeholders on service delivery challenges including crime patterns in the area. Stakeholders present included the Departments of Correctional Services, Justice and Constitutional Development, Social Development, Health, South African Police Service and Sarah Baartman District Municipality.
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Some of the issues raised included the lack of recreational activities for the youth that results in alcohol and drug abuse, and often leads to criminal activities. Other issues were the turn-around time for criminal cases to be closed and perpetrators being arrested as well as the waiting period at hospitals. Collectively, the relevant stakeholders agreed that more work needs to be done and further visits to Willowmore are necessary to address the challenges raised.

Chief Deputy Commissioner, Phiko Mbambo acknowledged all participants of the VOD session and expressed his gratitude for their courage to deliver their testimonies publicly. “As a department, we take pride on the success of our restorative and reintegration programmes such as the VOD session. Corrections is a societal responsibility.” He also highlighted the importance of different role-players and stakeholders in making a contribution towards corrections and the safety of communities.

The Department will continue to host these life-changing sessions, and implement successful restorative and reintegration programmes, to create a safer South Africa.

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