As part of efforts to foster peace and harmony, and to restore the trust of the community, the National Commissioner of the Department of Correctional Services (DCS), Makgothi Thobakgale led a community imbizo in Lusikisi, Eastern Cape, on 12 July 2023.
This stems from a horrific incident where a parolee hacked four of his family members with an axe and killing them. The community engagement meeting took place at the local Assemblies of God Church, and was attended by different stakeholders, including the South African Police Service (SAPS), South African National Defence Force (SANDF), Department of Health and Department of Home Affairs amongst others.
Outlining the purpose of the imbizo, Chief Deputy Commissioner (CDC): Community Corrections, Phiko Mbambo indicated that the parolee committed these heinous crimes while on parole after benefitting from the COVID-19 Special Dispensation in 2020. He was sentenced to eight years for culpable homicide. “We have come here to correct and restore trust with the members of the community, and to promote a working relationship. We would also like to request the community members to welcome parolees when they are reintegrated back into the society, and to refrain from stigmatizing them as this contributes towards them re-offending,” said Mbambo.
Community members from Lusikisiki and the surrounding areas, were given a platform to engage with the stakeholders on pertinent issues affecting them and to also share possible solutions to alleviate crime. Nomana Ntshakaza, a qualified professional nurse who was gang-raped while on duty shared her horrible experience, and urged that more support be provided to rape victims. Ntshakaza has written a book titled: “Life can change any moment” – a process that greatly aided her to overcome the traumatic incident. In her book, she records all the challenges she encountered and the many methods she practices to assist in her healing. “As part of rehabilitation and reintegration processes for offenders, may the department also actively involve victims from the onset, rather than doing so during Victim Offender Dialogues which are conducted before the offenders’ release,” urged Ntshakaza.
Other issues raised included:
• The process involved when offenders are released.
• The alarming high rate of rape cases.
• Alleged corruption by police officers who solicit bribes from community members.
• Delayed or non-response of police officers when called to attend crime scenes.
Eastern Cape SAPS Provincial Commissioner, Lieutenant General Nomthetheli Mene responded to questions relating to their services and urged community members to work with the police and report any misconduct involving police members. She also indicated that more support and resources will be provided to the Community Safety Forums, to ensure that they conduct their work effectively. She also assured community members that there will be more police visibility to conduct patrols in the area.
In his closing remarks, National Commissioner Makgothi Thobakgale profusely thanked all the participating stakeholders for ensuring that the imbizo takes place, and the community members for coming in large numbers. “I am going to take all the matters raised here with my counterparts in the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster meetings, to ensure that they are addressed. The crimes committed by men in this area are horrendous, and as the security cluster, we need to come back and have engagements with these men and the community at large to eradicate crime. We need to work together as government departments to ensure that our communities are safe. In doing this, we will need a positive participation from the community as corrections is a societal responsibility,” he implored.
The imbizo concluded with Commissioner Thobakgale handing over food parcels and blankets to identified members of the community.