Police & Prison Civil Rights Union (POPCRU):Briefing

Correctional Services

12 September 2001
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

12 September 2001

Chairperson: Mr Fihla (ANC)

Documents Handed Out

Police and Prison Civil Rights Union delegates presented a report outlining the objectives of the body with regards to the transformation of Correctional Services in South Africa.

Mr Fihla (ANC) opened the meeting by stating that there was no need for quorum because the meeting was but a briefing of the relevant issues. The committee had a great task in the transformation of correctional services and only through interaction with interested parties could there be any development. In this regard NICRO and POPCRU were invited to make their presentations. Unfortunately NICRO sent an apology and would not be attending the meeting. However, they would be sending their relevant documentation. The committee would therefore be dealing with POPCRU and the outlook it has in the matter.

Mr Fihla introduced the members of the POPCRU delegation. Present at the meeting was Mr Mpemva (Deputy-President), Mr Motjetsi, Miss Greef, and Mr Thelebi (Chief Negotiator). At this point the meeting was handed over to the delegation.

In clarifying the role of POPCRU, Mr Mpemva (POPCRU) said it was necessary to highlight what Correctional Services was all about. He explained that the Correctional Services Department was a state department at the bottom of the Criminal Justice System that dealt with the safety and protection of all the citizens of the Republic. In doing so, it hopes to ensure the rehabilitation of all once incarcerated and often "rejected" citizens. He added that this would only be possible where there were sufficient human resources to facilitate such development. It was in this regard that the role of POPCRU became of paramount importance.

Mr Mpemva outlined the two objectives of the POPCRU:
- a commitment to improve the quality of the services provided by POPCRU members. He added that this would require the co-operation of the recipients in order to be wholly possible.
- the protection of all the employees of the Correctional Services department.
He explained that POPCRU would co-operate with the Department of Criminal Justice in the scope of its operation.

POPCRU was of the opinion that it could make a meaningful contribution to those persons in prison. This is because they strongly believed that the escape rate from prisons was partly caused by the idleness of prison officials. He put it on record that POPCRU was committed to transforming Correctional Services and that it would readily make necessary suggestions and at no stage would it distance itself from the task. He added that these aims were embodied in the need to recognise human rights as guaranteed by the 1996 Constitution.

The organisation of disenfranchised persons was essential, and that as a result the body was indebted to the people of South Africa. He said that this made it necessary to properly guide all members of the Correctional Services towards the proper execution of their duties. In addition, he explained that POPCRU endeavoured to end all corruption in the Department. Thus part of the agenda was that all POPCRU members viewed their employment seriously because the increasing number of escaping criminals requires a properly equipped management. He ended by saying that POPCRU had the attitude and the energy to make a contribution so long as its role was viewed positively.

Mr Bloem (ANC) gave thanks for the presentation. He asked how POPCRU viewed the transformation in the department since 1994.

Mr Mpemva highlighted that the body identified the great need for transformation in the correctional services. This transformation extended to a change in the quality of the product produced by the services. There was a need for a change from a correctional services department that incarcerated people, to a correctional services department that could look proudly upon all the people that were once incarcerated. This made it necessary to rehabilitate people. However, he said that giving POPCRU the opportunity to attempt to bring about a transformation was a start in itself, and that this start was needed in order for any development of whatever sort.

Mr Bloem (ANC) asked if the body had been mandated to curb corruption, and if so, for an indication of the steps it has taken to achieve this goal.

Mr Mpemva stated that POPCRU would like all members to make it a responsibility to expose corruption at all times. Members with access to or knowledge of incriminating information would be encouraged to come forward, and that they would be protected if they did so.

Mr Schmidt (DP) mentioned that the Protected Disclosure Bill was passed in Parliament last year in order to protect so-called 'whistle-blowers'. This legislation would assist in this regard and that he was sure POPCRU was aware of its usefulness.

Mr Bloem (ANC) suggested that there might be a communication breakdown between the employees and the top structures of POPCRU. He was of this opinion because the ordinary members thought that change was free for all. As a result, there had been a breakdown in discipline and respect. Transformation goes with responsibility. What were the communication lines between these two department levels?

Mr Mpemva stated that steps had already been taken in order to facilitate greater links. In the year 2000, POPCRU, at its own expense, took employees from the South African correctional services abroad in order to study the rendering of the service with the aim of improving South African structures. He added that this included employees from ground levels. The problem here was that the individuals had to take this training seriously.

In addition, there was great concern surrounding the issue of human resource management in the correctional services, and this required a solution in order for there to be change.
Management was not properly trained to take up the challenge. People relied on the instructions given, but that one needed an environment where people were engaged. If this did not happen management would be undermined. However, this was not an indication that POPCRU condoned disrespect. Mechanisms existed to engage discussion. Twice a year the body had an inclusive national meeting in order to carry out policy discussions on a wider level. All members would be given the opportunity to contribute and the opportunity existed at the lowest levels to discuss POPCRU policies.

Mr Diale (ANC) inquired whether POPCRU had branches throughout the province.

Mr Mpemva said that this was the position.

Mr Diale (ANC) asked how were the lines of communication throughout the provinces.

Mr Mojetsi (POPCRU) stated that POPCRU had structures to facilitate this. He listed them, namely; national structures, a congress that has been running for three years, a central executive committee, a national executive committee, a provincial executive committee, a branch executive committee, employees such as shop stewards on the local level, and an institutional committee that sits monthly. In this way information was transmitted from the top to the ground, and vice versa.

Mr Moeketse (ANC) mentioned the recent appointments to senior positions in the correctional services department. Was POPCRU satisfied with the way in which this happened because there were different opinions throughout the department?

Mr Mpemva said that members of this portfolio committee would agree with him that since 1999 there had been many occasions where POPCRU had been criticised because of appointments within the correctional services department. The management of the correctional services department was competent to make its own appointments. However, if any members felt that they had been prejudiced in this regard, POPCRU had the responsibility to take that issue up to the department. Any process of transformation created great expectations. This meant that those who bore expectations of appointment would obviously be dissatisfied when not appointed. In this regard, the body would deal only with complaints by people who bore legitimate rights that had been prejudiced, and not with general dissatisfaction.

Mr Mojetsi (POPCRU) said that POPCRU had the additional responsibility of taking care of the resolutions that were entered into between parties in the various councils. POPCRU was mandated to manage all processes that had been agreed upon, it was also the duty of the body to ensure that all resolutions entered into would be honoured.

Mr Bloem (ANC) emphasised that the problem was communication because members of POPCRU on the ground were complaining about appointments. This was because agreements made on top levels were not filtered down.

Mr Moeketsi (ANC) added that based solely on the debate that surrounded the recent appointments into the correctional services department, there were complaints of unfairness from Kronstadt prison. Was POPCRU aware of these complaints because the morale of trainers in that department was very low?

Mr Mpemva said that POPCRU had no knowledge of the complaints in Kronstadt at this stage. The position regarding the employment of senior people had already been explained. Another problem was that there was nothing wrong with people asserting their rights to a position. However, POPCRU would have to deal with a situation where, for example, posts in Gauteng were given to persons from that province, and positions in Pollsmor Prison were filled by reshuffling staff within the prison. The view of the body was that appointments should be based on merit and thus positions should not be confined in this way. In addition, in terms of the Constitution, one was allowed to apply for any post anywhere. However, his final point was that concerned parties had to raise legitimate expectations, as only these would be heard.

Mr Mojetsi (POPCRU) said that as far as management development, members argued that they were excluded in appointments. Management was obligated not to allow its members to be overlooked when they had been given the legitimate expectation of appointment by management itself. Although the problem of appointments existed, management was partly to blame.

Mr Fihla (ANC) mentioned that he had visited other countries when this transformation project was begun. They were asked how to deal with those that resisted transformation, and to suggest who would lead the transformation. The starting point was with the officials, such as this committee, who sat at the forefront. It was not the changing of faces that led to transformation, but the visions held by particular individuals when put into key positions. He said, to POPCRU in particular, that there should be people committed to transformation in top positions. It was also necessary to remember that corruption went a long way and even included assisting friends into positions of employment. This would serve to undermine change and should therefore be prevented. He ended by saying that this was one to the toughest institutions.

The meeting was adjourned.



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