Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services visited Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West (LMN) Region to conduct an oversight at Rooigrond and Klerksdorp Management Areas on 29 and 30 March 2023 respectively.
Stakeholders present included the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI), Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services (JICS), Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPCRU) and Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) and DCS senior officials.
Oversight visits are a function granted by the constitution to parliament to monitor and oversee government service delivery. The Portfolio Committee exercises oversight to prevent unconstitutional conduct that halts service delivery; ensure that government operations are more transparent; and increase public trust to protect the rights and liberties of citizens.
The visits commenced with briefing sessions and were followed by a tour around the facilities with the first stop being at Rooigrond Correctional Services Pharmacy (which attained A-Grade by the South African Pharmacy in the recent inspection), followed by Water purification plant, Farm, Maximum Facility (Kitchen area).
The acting Area Commissioner of Rooigrond Management Area, Janet Herbst gave an overview of the Management Area as she outlined challenges threatening operations in the facility such as water shortage due to alkaline-clogged water pipes, dilapidated perimeter fencing, a kitchen area where pots and steaming pipes require maintenance, leased offices not in compliance with building regulations (Occupation Health and Safety Act) and Insufficient budget allocation for operational needs amongst others. “We transport water from Mafikeng Correctional Centre on a daily basis and this is not conducive as we spend a lot of money in the process,” said Herbst.
The next port of call was the visit to Klerksdorp Management Area were the Portfolio Committee toured Potchefstroom Remand Detention Facility with the first stop being at the Admission Office followed by Unit A, D and E, Kitchen Area, Textile workshop, Gym and Library. Potchefstroom Area Commissioner, Maile Minah presented challenges confronting the Management Area and stated that Klerksdorp, Potchefstroom, Christiana and Wolmaranstad Correctional Centres require repairs and renovations as the facilities are old, and face challenges from maintenance contractors due to under-pricing and unavailability of artisans. “Most of the major renovations and day-to-day maintenance projects are implemented by DPWI, however there have been delays in executing these projects,” said Maile.
Upon assessing progress and challenges facing the two management areas, the Portfolio Committee asserted that most challenges are related to infrastructure, and to address them, DPWI and other implementing agents must move with speed. They condemned the slow pace of finalising projects and called for the prioritisation of water and kitchen projects as they have the ability to spark violence. The team proposed that there should be more skills development on both officials and offenders for effective day-to-day maintenance by utilising offender labour. They vowed to monitor issues relating to infrastructure timeously and to meet with DPWI Minister, Sihle Zikalala to assist with unlocking all the bottlenecks.
Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee, Bulelani Mangwanishe said that all these issues are very key to security and require immediate intervention. He emphasised that DPWI must vet individuals to eliminate risks before awarding contracts” We need to categorise issues so that those of great importance are attended to. We need to develop policies that will eliminate bureaucratic processes hindering progress and implement consequences management to contractors who fail to complete projects,” said Mr Mangwanishe. He further hailed the Self-Sufficiency and Sustainable Framework (SSSF) which is yielding positive results in providing relieve to the fiscus.
LMN Regional Commissioner, Tlabo Thokolo appreciated the visits and expressed gratitude to the recommendations made by the Portfolio Committee to DCS and DPWI which will result in projects being completed within a projected time. He further highlighted the achievements which are primarily as a result of implementing the SSSF. “The two management areas are self-sufficient on the production of vegetables, milk, beef, pork and this has saved the department over R3.1 Million in the past two financial years,” said Thokolo.
DPWI and DBSA acknowledged the slow pace of projects and they have committed to finalise projects to unlock all blockages.