11 February 2013

South Africa: Correctional Services Minister Sibusiso Ndebele Meets With Organised Labour

press release

Correctional Services Minister Sibusiso Ndebele today, 11 February 2013 met with the senior leadership of the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPCRU) and the Public Servants Association of South Africa (PSA) in Tshwane, Gauteng, as part of strengthening relationships, through regular engagements, with organised labour in the Department of Correctional Services (DCS).

Addressing the meeting, Minister Ndebele said: "As government, we appreciate, and recognize, the role played by organised labour in supporting the transformation agenda of the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) Cluster.

We must engage, meaningfully, on strategic policy matters that affect the organisation, as well as share critical information in the interests of the organisation and its employees.We want to discuss every problem correctly and timeously. Let us continue with the frank, and constructive, relationship we have always had with organised labour.

It must be emphasised that all issues require that, collectively, we need to be more innovative in finding solutions. We cannot afford to maintain the status quo. We need to look at issues from different perspectives, as they are dynamic. A collective realisation is required that we are duty-bound to the officials in DCS to find long-lasting solutions, which will give meaning to our clarion call that this is the Year of the Correctional Official.

This clarion call must heighten our collective sense of obligation to our Correctional Officials. It will ring hollow if we carry on business as usual. I, therefore, call on all of us to find speedy, long-lasting solutions to the critical issues. This Ministerial Consultative Forum needs to set in motion processes, and frameworks, which will facilitate the speedy resolution of all matters, and others which may emerge, going forward.

Since my appointment to Correctional Services on 12 June 2012, I have emphasised to management that we must resolve all outstanding issues which negatively affect our relationship with staff and organised labour. It's therefore important to emphasise that our line managers, at the various management areas, need to ensure that the lines of communication remain open, at all times, through mediums such as the union-management forums. These forums must take place, without fail, on a monthly basis. We need to ensure that localised employer-employee challenges are resolved at source, and these forums provide a critical platform. I am informed that we are making progress in this regard.

We have declared 2013 as 'The Year of the Correctional Official'. As stated in the White Paper on Corrections, corrections is a multi-faceted profession which requires knowledge of social work, psychology, nursing, pharmacology, health and theology. The ideal Correctional Official should embody the values that DCS hopes to instill in the offender, as it is this official who is to assist, and facilitate, the rehabilitation processes of the offender. An attitude of serving with excellence, a principled way of relating to others and, above all, a just and caring attitude are essential ingredients of the behaviour of a Correctional Official.

A caring attitude requires a principled display of qualities such as integrity, honesty and sound work practices; adherence to the departmental code of conduct; and general disassociation with all forms of corruption and unethical conduct. There are more risks for a Correctional Official than most jobs. The population that they work with in the prison system is much more dangerous than the general public. Although education, and training, are required to work in this environment, just one little mistake can be very risky for a Correctional Official. A Correctional Official prepares inmates for successful rehabilitation, re-entry and reintegration.

From 16 to 18 January 2013, the DCS held its Lekotgla in KwaZulu-Natal where we reviewed our vision, mission, values, strategic goals and strategic objectives. As stated at the Lekotgla, history teaches us one clear lesson: freedom will not last unless it's coupled with order. Order can exist without freedom, but freedom can never exist without order.

That freedom and order may co-exist, it is essential that freedom should be exercised under authority and order should be enforced by authority. The enforcement of order should always be guided by the principle of legality, necessity and proportionality. The Prisons and Reformatories Act, Act 13 of 1911, introduced a formal prison system in South Africa 102 years ago.

The interim Constitution of the country, introduced in 1993, embodied the fundamental rights of the country's citizens, including that of offenders. This resulted in the introduction of a human rights culture into the correctional system, and the strategic direction of DCS is to ensure that incarceration entails safe, and secure, custody under humane conditions.

We are passionate about galvanising understanding, and support, for our transformative agenda from prisons to corrections, and preparing those of our offenders who need to get ready to be reintegrated as functional members of society.

Since 1994, the department, however, managed to overcome many of the challenges, and, progressively, started to introduce remedies and turnaround strategies. One such is new designs for correctional centres, especially as the emphasis started to shift from imprisonment to corrections, and rehabilitation, post 1994.

The period since then has seen the review of policies, the introduction of new legislation on more than one occasion, the development of the White Paper on Corrections, the introduction of unit management as a concept aimed at ensuring greater control over smaller pockets of offenders and remand detainees, and many other improvements.

DCS is a client Department, and incarcerates offenders as per order of the court. South Africa is currently ranked number one in Africa, and 9th in the world, in terms of prison population, with approximately 160, 000 inmates. Of this, about 30% constitute awaiting-trial detainees. Since my appointment, overcrowding in correctional centres is one of our key priorities.

To this end, the department hosted a colloquium on overcrowding, alternative sentencing and the white paper on remand detention on 19 and 20 November 2012, which was attended by all relevant stakeholders including representatives from the judiciary. The recommendations of the colloquium are currently being considered for implementation. That our offender population has remained constant, whether you remove pass laws, group areas or apartheid laws, should make us search more urgently for answers to the high prison population in South Africa.

The department's core functions are to enhance public safety, and effective criminal justice, through effective management of remand detention; reduce re-offending through offender management and rehabilitation; and social reintegration through management of non-custodial sentences and parole.

Corrections is a societal responsibility, and our vision is of a trilogy of offenders, victims and the community in partnership to break the cycle of crime. Correctional Services is the last hope for victims of crime, and for many of the individuals sentenced for crime.

All offenders, except lifers considered inappropriate for parole, will return to society at the end of the sentences. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that they are in the best state to be constructive members of society on their release. We have to ensure that all people in South Africa are, and feel, safe," the Minister said.

Issued by: Department of Correctional Services

Copyright © 2013 South African Government. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.