Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Budget Speech & response by DA
17 May 2017
Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Adv Michael Masutha, gave his Budget Vote Speech on the 17 May 2017.
Ministers and Deputy Ministers
Comrades and friends
Ladies and gentlemen
As Honourable Members are aware, this year is the 100th birthday of our great struggle stalwart Oliver Reginald Tambo who once said: “The fight for freedom must go on until it is won; until our country is free and happy and peaceful as part of the community of man, we cannot rest”. His words resonate with our theme: “The year of OR Tambo: Together deepening democracy and building safer and crime free communities”, as we celebrate 23 years of freedom.
Our goal to sustain a humane, efficient and effective correctional system that complies with national and international standards is squarely dependent on ensuring highly motivated, properly incentivized and capacitated officials. I can never overemphasize the commitment of our officials who are working under challenging conditions, and are making a positive contribution towards redefining corrections in this country.
Esteemed colleagues, in his State of the Nation Address this year, President Zuma said: “One of the strategies of fighting crime is to ensure that those who are released from prison do not commit crime again…”
As the Department of Correctional Services we continue to work hard to turn prisons into correctional centres through offering various services. As a result, compliance levels with parole and probation conditions have improved to reach a historic mark of 98 percent. This is clear evidence of our effective and efficient rehabilitation programmes. The country has also made good progress in reducing the numbers of children in correctional centres.
Despite some challenges we experienced since we took office in May 2014 which we have since been hard at work to address, I am pleased to report that for the first time, since 1994, this Department received an unqualified audit finding last year (2015/16).
Although the Department has achieved an unqualified audit outcome, there remain opportunities for improvement with respect to compliance especially with respect to supply chain management prescripts, internal controls in the management of programme performance information and implementation of audit recommendations.
During the past financial year, various assurance service providers such as the Departmental Investigating Unit, Inspectorate Directorate and Code Enforcement had been assigned to investigate and institute disciplinary action on irregular, unauthorized, fruitless and wasteful expenditure.
A total of 595 cases of irregular expenditure have been investigated. Where disciplinary actions were instituted, the outcomes of such actions include written warnings, verbal warnings and counselling for officials who transgressed on supply chain management prescripts. It is worth noting that cases of supply chain transgressions have been reduced, owing to the implementation of due diligence procedures in the form of compliance reviews to awarding of tenders. This mechanism will continue to be implemented to ensure continued compliance to legislation.
With a dwindling budget facing all State entities, we have to be more innovative and think differently so that we can achieve more with less. Treasury has enforced austerity measures in the form of baseline reductions. As a result, Correctional Services budget allocation has been reduced by R235 million in 2017/18. We are further bound to experience a similar trend for years 2018-19 and 2019-20.
In the 2017/18 financial year, the total budget allocation for the department is R22.8 billion with a year on year nominal increase of 5.7%. This will translate into 2018/19 receiving R24.5 billion and R26.2 billion for 2019/20. In spite of limited financial resources, we have deliberately reprioritized funding towards rehabilitation programmes. In so doing, over the medium-term, funding for rehabilitation will grow on average by 7.6%. This shift will ensure that provision of needs-based programmes to offenders is improved, thereby enabling social reintegration of offenders into communities.
These austerity measures call upon management to implement cost containment, whilst ensuring value for money in our activities. These measures have resulted in savings of approximately R34 million, which will be realized over the medium-term.
In order to ensure that the right level of skills are placed in the correct positions, we are re-looking at the human resource structure of Department to deal with the top heavy management composition so we can redirect resources and a bulk of activities towards the rehabilitation of offenders. This entails streamlining head office and reducing it by a third, whereupon officials are re-deployed to strengthen operations at centre level. A number of critical posts at a senior management level remain vacant and we have put measures in place to expedite the process of filling them. The posts in question are Chief Deputy Commissioner for Human Resources and the Regional Commissioner for Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Gauteng.
Worth celebrating is the settlement agreement in respect of the 2nd Phase of the Occupation Specific Dispensation (OSD). This can be described as a watershed moment, considering that this was a thorny issue which took years to be resolved. I applaud our officials, organised labour and all other stakeholders who showed determination, and resilience, in resolving the impasse.
In 2016, I indicated that Department was in the process of developing an Integrated Inmate Management System (IIMS) which is intended to give a single capture, and view point, of all inmate and offender information in all correctional centres. This will improve on the delivery of our mandate to effectively incarcerate, rehabilitate and reintegrate the inmate population.
We have made significant progress in the implementation of IIMS at Kgosi Mampuru II, and Johannesburg Remand Detention centres commenced on the 19 March 2017, with an intake of almost 2,600 offenders into the system with biometric identification and verification to and from courts. The rollout of the system will continue to all remaining Remand Centres during 2017/18, while further enhancements will be developed for community corrections. The presentation on the Integrated Justice System (IJS) has shown that in the 1st quarter of 2017/18 IIMS will be integrated with DOJCD Integrated Case Management System for Sentencing & Warrants (what is called J7). This will enable virtual access to the two systems by officials.
Members of this House will remember that on 22 December 2016, the Western Cape High Court, in the matter between Sonke Gender Justice, the Government and the Head of Centre Pollsmoor Remand Detention Facility, the Honourable Judge Saldanha made an order that we undertake to reduce the number of persons detained at the Pollsmoor Remand Detention Facility to 150% of the current approved accommodation number within six (6) months of the date of this order.
As we have started implementing our action plan, the total population at Pollsmoor remand detention has been reduced from 251% in December 2016 to 157% as of the second week of May 2017. This demonstrates that we are on course to meet the target within the timeframes as indicated in the judgment.
In the last financial year, I announced that the department will undertake a pilot project to monitor compliance with the Correctional Services Act in our facilities, through a research tool developed jointly with Professor Muntingh from the University of the Western Cape. Four centres were part of this initial phase. The results of the survey have pointed to a need for the department to accelerate its research and monitoring capability, especially in the large and most problematic management areas. This exercise will assist us to avert unnecessary litigation from our stakeholders on our inability to comply with the provisions of the Act, on minimum conditions of detention and protection of basic human rights.
For this financial year, the department is going to escalate the implementation of the monitoring tool to the five largest Management Areas in the country, i.e. Pollsmoor, Durban-Westville, Kgosi Mampuru, Johannesburg and St. Albans. Four different centres within each of these management areas will be targeted to allow for an enriched cross analysis of the most problematic areas of compliance, thereby enabling us to develop early warning signs and alternate remedies to the problems seizing our correctional system. The Department continues to engage with various external stakeholders and institutions of higher learning so as to ensure that we continue to follow best practices in terms of dealing with juvenile offenders. A recent study was conducted by UNISA on a criminological analysis on the transfer of juveniles to adult correctional centres. In the main, the study looked at establishing factors to be taken into account before the transfer of such offenders to adult correctional facilities as well as to investigate the needs of youth offenders in adult correctional centres. The findings and recommendations of this study will be taken into account in informing future policy formulation as it relates to juvenile offenders.
One of our main challenges with offenders serving life sentences is as a result of the 2011 North Gauteng High Court judgment of Van Wyk, which had the effect of bringing forward the minimum detention period for offenders sentenced to life before 01 October 2004.
Such has thus created some backlogs in processing parole consideration for this category of offenders, while on the other side, many cases were referred back for further profiling. To address the backlogs, we have accelerated the process of recruiting professionals such as psychologists, and social workers. Currently, all these professionals are converged in one place to speedily process the backlogs and in a week’s time, they are expected to submit all the cases for further handling. Furthermore, the National Council for Correctional Services has undertaken to meet more often and to host regular marathon meetings so as to ensure that all offenders who qualify for parole consideration are considered timeously. With regard to the political offenders parole consideration process, as Honourable Members are aware, I have appointed a task team to process the Parole Application of this category of offenders. The same process as alluded to above is to be applied.
A process of information sharing on the status of parole applications for offenders serving life sentences, is currently underway. This will assist in creating a transparent consideration process. A toll free line with dedicated and trained officials is envisaged.
In November 2015, I established a Task Team with a view to drive the re-engineering of our parole system.
I am pleased to announce that the Task Team has pursued this assignment with commendable vigour, and has finalized the draft Position Paper “A REVISED PAROLE SYSTEM FOR SOUTH AFRICA”. The draft position paper has been subjected to extensive consultation, and we will keep you updated accordingly. Further, proposed amendments to the Correctional Services Act have been submitted for consideration. In addition, on 24 January 2017, proposed amendments to the Criminal Procedure Act were submitted to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development for consideration. Once all necessary processes have been finalized, we will approach Cabinet and Parliament with draft legislation to support implementation of the Position Paper.
The proposed legislation will also help realign our services with the Criminal Procedure, Act 51 of 1977, as amended, to make restorative justice a mandatory process to help heal the harm caused by crime. The legislation will ensure that sufficient capacity is built for facilitating an inclusive process from the frontline in correctional centres, with professionals such as social workers to better manage relations with victims. The legislation will also create an enabling legislative, policy and operational environment for establishing effective relations with community based agencies, for ensuring effective implementation of the community corrections services.
The Department is currently working on developing a system for Prisoner Transfer Agreements at Bilateral and Multilateral Platforms. A consultative process with external stakeholders and the Executive Authority will soon be undertaken. Following this process, the proposed position document will be presented before Cabinet for final approval prior to entering into various bilateral agreements.
On the SADC multilateral forum, Legal experts from the Member States will be finalising the Draft SADC Protocol on the Inter-state Transfer of Foreign Prisoners in Gaborone on the 31st May 2017. This Draft Protocol will then be endorsed by the Ministerial Committee of the Organ (MCO) on the 21st July 2017.
Collaboration between DCS and the National Skills Fund (NSF) has been enhanced, with NSF approving R87 million for 2016/2017 to 2018/2019, to target the skills development of 10,058 offenders. Another partnership was established with the Safety and Security Sector Education and Training Authority (SASSETA), with a commitment to provide funding for the training of offenders in various accredited skills programmes.
Much work has been done to address the filling of critical vacancies created by staff attrition, and we have been able to reduce the backlog of unfilled vacancies by 7.4%. DCS continues to offer employment through its learnership programmes, focusing on the most vulnerable sectors of the youth in our communities. A total of 2,017 learners who have been declared competent will be absorbed in vacant entry level posts, with some of these learners from child-headed household backgrounds here with us today. We are also planning to recruit 3,096 youth in the next learnership programme.
In March this year, DCS was awarded a gold medal for the Best Interns Learnership Programmes and Best Skills Programme at the National Skills Authority (NSA) awards ceremony. Also with us in the public gallery today is Correctional Official Mr. Aubrey Baloyi, who is currently a dog handler at Boksburg Management Area. As a student correctional official, Aubrey was part of the 2016 learnership group when he saved R2000 from his monthly stipend to buy a member of the public, Cesar Atanaseo Cumbe, a wheelchair, which, together with groceries donated by his colleagues from the Boksburg Community Corrections Office, were handed over on 22 March 2017. Baloyi saw the plight of Cumbe when they were conducting monitoring of parolees and probationers at Zonkizizwe informal settlement as part of his practical learning in the learnership programme, and it troubled him so much that he decided he must do something about it. Cumbe survives through a social grant and small earnings from his shoe making business he runs from the street. Due to his walking impairment, he had self-made knee pads to help him crawl with less pain. When handing over the wheelchair, Baloyi said: “We are not related at all, but I felt I had an obligation as a public servant and a citizen of this country to bring change and improve the lives of others. Goodwill and humility should be every public servant’s everyday activity”. I offer him commendation on behalf of government for his splendid example of Ubuntu.
Finally, I want to extend thanks and appreciation to members of the Portfolio Committee for Justice and Correctional Services, the Deputy Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Honourable Thabang Makwetla, National Commissioner Zach Modise together with his management team and all correctional officials as well as all other stakeholders for all your efforts towards ensuring a progressive corrections agenda. Together, we can advance the ideals of OR Tambo.
ADDRESS DELIVERED BY THE DEPUTY MINISTER OF JUSTICE AND CORRECTIONAL SERVICES, HONOURABLE THABANG MAKWETLA (MP), ON THE OCCASION OF THE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONAL SERVICES BUDGET VOTE (VOTE 18)
Ø Honourable House Chairperson
Ø Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Honourable Adv. Michael Masutha
Ø Honourable Members of the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services
Ø Distinguished Guests
Ø Ladies and Gentlemen
Our country is a nation that emerged from the ashes and anguish of apartheid to create a better life for all. We are on our way, despite the challenges we still face. Together, we must continue to deepen democracy and build safer communities. We cannot allow crime, and criminal activities, to derail us. The struggle for freedom secured the right for all South Africans to be part of our democracy. It was Fyodor Dostoevsky who said, "The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons”.
The late Letsau Nelson Diale, one of the former Members of this Portfolio Committee in the first Parliament of the democratic South Africa, himself a former prisoner on Robben Island had this to say about his prison experience:
“We were handcuffed in such a way that our body movement was curtailed a great deal. We urinated onto ourselves because we were not given any chance to relieve ourselves. The chains were only removed from us at night, when we were dumped in a small cell with one toilet. When we arrived at the harbour, they violently dragged us from the boat, the chains causing our hands and feet much pain. At six o’ clock in the morning, we would be headed to have breakfast that consisted of a little, watery, thin soft porridge without any butter, milk or sugar. A prisoner had to squat, as if on his marks at the beginning of a race, in an open prison yard, and scoop up the porridge with his cupped fingers. One had to eat very quickly guarded by many warders armed to the teeth. Our lunch consisted of a small portion of mealies; it would sometimes be served covered with sand and a little bit of ‘phuza-mandla,’ a certain liquid mealie meal produced for prisoners by certain factories. The warders forced prisoners to sit on cold stones in the quarry for the whole day throughout all the years. This exercise caused the prisoners to develop piles.
“When the prisoners were ordered back from the quarry to prison yard, there was a very painful and humiliating practice called “thauza’ whereby prisoners would be forced to take off their prison clothes and throw them on a pile and remain naked, waiting for the order to show their backsides to the prison warder for inspection. When the warder was satisfied by his inspection, he would kick and assault the prisoners forcing them to run and grab any uniform that was in the mixed pile and fall in line barefoot. No shoes were supplied. The prisoners would then be instructed to take their supper, would consisted of watery, thin, soft porridge again, after which they would be locked in the cells, given one mat and one blanket. Some prisoners developed diseases such as asthma and TB, and passed away because of one of these diseases…… This is my experience, this is what I experienced for a solid period of eight year living on Robben Island.”
The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons, as Dostoevsky observed.
The genesis of South Africa’s penal system was crafted through the Prisons and Reformatories Act, promulgated in 1911, which decreed that prisons of the Union of South Africa shall be strictly segregated, secret and use corporal punishment. Abuse grew to appalling heights over decades. Attempts to disclose what was going on in apartheid prisons led to fierce persecution of the media and others. It took nearly a century of struggle before a new, democratic, government introduced measures to guarantee the fundamental rights of every citizen, including offenders. It is the Correctional Services Act, Act 111 of 1998, together with the White Paper on Corrections in South Africa, which facilitated a new paradigm shift, opting for corrections through rehabilitative interventions.
The Western Cape High Court judgment in the Sonke Gender Justice matter has, in recent months, put the spotlight on general conditions at our correctional centres, particularly the Big Five centres of Pollsmoor, St. Albans, Durban-Westville, Johannesburg and Kgosi Mampuru II. In his report on Pollsmoor Correctional Centre – Remand Centre and Women’s Centre, Justice Cameron, of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, said: “The Constitution provides that detainees and sentenced prisoners have the right to ‘conditions of detention that are consistent with human dignity’. This provision requires that, at a minimum, prisoners and detainees should have access to – exercise; adequate accommodation; nutrition; reading material; and medical treatment. The Constitution also seeks to protect prisoners and detainees from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. In addition, the Correctional Services Act stipulates that correctional centres must have, among other things: sufficient space to enable inmates to move freely and sleep comfortably within the confines of their cells; accommodation that is properly ventilated; cells with sufficient natural and artificial lighting that allows inmates to read and write; sufficient and accessible ablution facilities available to all inmates at all times, including access to hot and cold water for washing purposes; and a separate bed and bedding for every inmate which provides adequate warmth for the climatic conditions and which complies with hygienic requirements”.
Despite various challenges, in response to the court order to reduce overcrowding at Pollsmoor Remand Detention Centre by at least 150%, an action plan, implemented in cooperation with the JCPS Cluster, saw the population reduced from 4,066 on 6 December 2016 to 2,570 on 8 May 2017.
The action plan is multipronged to include, amongst others, the following:
· Pollsmoor Medium A, Goodwood and Malmesbury correctional facilities were converted to be full time remand detention facilities to alleviate and assist to manage the influx from the courts.
· Accordingly, 1,000 sentenced offenders were transferred to the FS/NC Region.
· The position of Head of Centre has been filled.
· Progress has also been made in terms of physical exercise to increase the frequency of exercise from twice to four times a week, and assaults.
· Basic medical supplies and medication: In February 2017, the turnaround time for issuing prescriptions has decreased from 48 hours to 24 hours. Pollsmoor is now utilizing an onsite Laboratory Service with a Genexpert machine to improve the turnaround time for sputum (TB) results.
· With respect to feeding, the current shift system and acute staff shortages are an objective constraint to the strict adherence to Section 8(5) of the Correctional Services Act governing the provision of meals. However, offenders are still provided with three meals.
· With respect to bed spaces, due to the down management of the totals at the RD facility, there is adequate beds for offenders.
· The hygiene conditions have remarkably improved, with the addition of eight domestic washing machines for the purpose of providing clean blankets. New admission are now receiving clean blankets on arrival.
· Single cells are utilized as an informal library.
Whilst Pollsmoor is not an isolated syndrome, such conditions are certainly not prevalent at all 243 facilities. Other recommendations to deal with overcrowding include the option of building more incarceration facilities, marketing of bail and other non-custodial alternatives as well as ensuring an effective and efficient community corrections system.
For the past financial year, our quest to fight Tuberculosis has seen 83% offenders being treated, whilst inmate testing for HIV was at 123.14% and the provision of antiretroviral therapy (ART) at 98%. Numerous programmes are in place to improve the welfare of inmates, and promote healthy living.
Conditions of detention consistent with human dignity compels the Department to deal effectively with gangs in correctional facilities. Gang culture has a long history in South Africa. The Numbers prison gangs (26s, 27s and 28s) can trace their origins back to the prisons, mine compounds and informal settlements as long as 1824. In practice, government has been reactive and anti-gang strategies have not yielded the desired outcome partly because they have been restricted to policing and the criminal justice system. At the request of the JCPS Cluster, the National Anti-Gangsterism Strategy has been formulated to address not only the phenomenon, and impact, of gangsterism but also prevention of gangsterism. In line with the national strategy, DCS is also implementing an anti-gang strategy. Challenges being encountered by DCS include no sustained gang centred programmes, as well as an integrated holistic approach to managing gangs.
Following the wholesale violent attack on officials on 26 December 2016, which resulted in the death of three offenders and injuries to 13 officials, I, again, visited St. Albans Maximum Correctional Centre, in Port Elizabeth, on 17 March 2017, for an interactive stakeholder session to address gang-related issues that affect both the incarcerated population, our workforce and surrounding communities. On 11 April 2017, I was back at St. Albans and engaged officials, and offenders, about their strained relations and working conditions. Eighteen officials at this centre still remain on leave for occupational injuries since October 2016, and there has not been staff replenishment to cover their absence. Between 30 April and 1 May 2017, five officials were violently attacked by inmates at Pollsmoor Medium A and Medium B centres. It is situations like these where our penal system can be viewed as having failed. Gangsterism, and feuds, in correctional centres cannot be allowed to continue, and offenders cannot be allowed to have the authority in centres. We continue to remind officials about the legal prescripts on the use of force, and the repercussions for officials when they lose focus and apply disproportionate force. When management is not united, wrong messages are given to staff. Few categories of people have daily access to our correctional centres. They are officials, offenders returning from external custody or work teams, and visitors. These people are the carriers of unauthorised items. As part of our clampdown on corruption at St. Albans recently, a correctional official and a DCS educator were dismissed. Several steps have already been taken to prevent a recurrence of violent attacks at St. Albans, which we are monitoring, and we will be back there soon.
Some of the interventions at St. Albans include:
· All offenders involved in the incident were removed from Maximum to Port Elizabeth Correctional Centre.
· In addressing some of the complaints of the offenders, some of them were transferred to facilities closer to their families.
· Management is implementing an action plan to address concerns raised by officials. These concerns include staff shortages, divided management approaches, information gaps between staff and management, impact of the shift pattern on operations and the associated risks to officials, HR administration: performance management, service benefits as well as inconsistencies in injury-on-duty management, and the application of common approaches to work so that DCS policies are implemented in a uniform manner.
We continue to give staffing issues at correctional facilities serious attention, and we have called upon the Department to ensure that there is no sluggishness in dealing with HR matters.
Our ageing infrastructure, and menial maintenance work, has been a concern for a while. Over the MTEF, we have allocated R2.6 billion for infrastructure development and maintenance, property leases, municipal services and accommodation charges for all our facilities. Engagement with the DG of Public Works and the National Commissioner are bearing some fruit, in respect of improvement on projects. About 90% of vacant technical posts in Facilities have been filled, and we are continuing to build our own internal capacity. The utilisation of offender labour will go a long way in reducing the level of dilapidation in our facilities. The budget on municipal charges and private leases continues to constrain the department to do as many projects as it would be practicably possible.
As a consequence, R183m has been removed from the capital budget to try and fund municipal charges. Due to the reallocation, a significant number of projects have been stopped or delayed.
Honourable Members, as per the White Paper on Corrections, the correctional system in South Africa should be subject to independent inspection. The Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services (JICS) facilitates the inspection of correctional facilities to ensure that offenders’ rights are respected, and the Inspectorate reports on any corrupt or dishonest practices in correctional centres. As Section 85 of the Correctional Services Acts states, JICS is an independent office under the control of the Inspecting Judge. The Inspecting Judge must have at his or her disposal a number of full-time inspectors. Their findings are reported to the Inspecting Judge, who is obliged to report to the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services. Therefore, JICS is an important office that Correctional Services must support in order to ensure accountability and external scrutiny. The Department has been tasked to urgently address issues that hamper the effectiveness of JICS, and to put in place short, medium-term and long-term plans including increasing the JICS infrastructure footprint.
As part of our on-going work towards rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders, we must do more to engage with ex-offenders. On 14 March 2017, I met with various representatives from the ex-offender community in an attempt to find solutions to the recent sporadic incidents of violence at certain correctional centres. My office will continue to encourage initiatives of this nature, and redouble efforts to rehabilitate offenders.
In conclusion, allow me to congratulate our inmates and correctional officials for their role in getting into the Guinness World Records for making the world’s biggest blanket. The achievement was orchestrated by Carolyn Steyn, founder of the 67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela campaign.
In this Department, Honourable Members, there are thousands of courageous and dedicated South Africans who carry out duties under extremely adverse conditions on a daily basis, away from the public glare. These are the unsung heroes, without whom our nation-building project can only remain a dream. I wish to convey my appreciation to the officials and officers of the Department of Correctional Services for their determined contribution to the building of a better society. Chairperson, there is an ever-greater demand for accountability and we have to demonstrate value for every rand spent. Together, let’s build a country where all people are, and feel, safe.
The DCS can now be moved out of intensive care
Note to editors: The following speech was delivered in Parliament today by the DA’s Shadow Minister of Correctional Services, James Selfe MP, during the Budget Vote on Correctional Services.
Just about every year, we come to Parliament during this vote and say more or less the same things: the prisons are overcrowded; the gangs are too powerful; there is too much corruption; the staff fear for their safety; the re-offending rate is too high, and so I could go on.
The object of any penal system must be to rehabilitate offenders, thereby lowering the crime rate. Under current circumstances, very few offenders are rehabilitated, and depressingly large numbers of them re-offend. That is chiefly because the prisons are so overcrowded that, with the best will in the world, meaningful rehabilitation programmes are difficult to roll out, and key categories of staff, such as psychologists and educators, are in short supply. Overcrowding also allows the gangs to flourish.
Overcrowding is driven by two major factors: first, it is a result of longer sentences, and particularly minimum sentences; and secondly, it is caused by large numbers of remand detainees, who can often not be released because they cannot pay relatively low amounts of bail, or because they have no fixed addresses.
It follows that if we want to improve the chances of successful rehabilitation, we must lower the rates of overcrowding, but obviously in a responsible manner. Moreover, if we want to improve the chances of successful reintegration, we must ensure that offenders are ready to be released and that they will be accepted into their families and communities.
As I said, we have been banging on about these things for years, but this year, for the first time, there are glimmers of hope that someone in the Department is listening.
When the Deputy Minister briefed the Portfolio Committee, he alluded to a number of positive features that could “down-manage” overcrowding. The first was the finalisation of a position paper on parole, and the drafting of a Parole Bill. Reforming the parole system and making it more flexible will allow more offenders to be released before the end of their sentences.
Secondly, he mentioned that a draft policy framework was being developed for the inter-state transfer of offenders to serve their sentences in their country of citizenship. I have been advocating for this since 1996. It makes no sense to have a foreign national serve a sentence (which has to be in full, since no parole is possible), and then simply deport him or her. There are many more foreign nationals in our prisons than there are South Africans serving sentences in foreign jails.
Thirdly, if one looks at the Budget, for the first time one can discern that there is a small but significant reallocation of resources away from incarceration and administration to rehabilitation and reintegration. If a new parole system is to be introduced, it is essential that the community corrections branch is properly staffed and equipped to be able to monitor parolees and probationers.
In this respect, it is pleasing to note that in the 2015/16 financial year, only 1,22% of parolees violated their parole conditions. It is less pleasing to note that the roll out of the electronic monitoring system is still on hold, we assume until the trial of the former Minister Sbu Ndebele starts.
Fourthly, the number of offenders who participated in restorative justice programmes and victim-offender dialogue has increased rapidly over the last three years. Victim offender dialogue is not easy, both emotionally and practically, but it does improve the prospects of more successful reintegration when offenders are released.
Fifthly, it was pleasing to note that the negotiations on the Occupational Specific Dispensation have finally been concluded. This has gone on about as long as we have been trying to have the charges against Jacob Zuma reinstated. This ought to make it easier to recruit and retain the scarce skills that are so necessary for successful rehabilitation. However, the downside is that, to remain within the envelope of available resources for the remuneration of employees in the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) as a whole, the number of employees at the coalface – in the centres – is likely to reduce.
What was missing and disappointing in the Budget and the briefings?
First, we would have wanted to see a greater commitment to alternative sentencing. Not every offender belongs in prison, and a more effective and satisfactory sentence may very well be community service. This has three advantages: first, offenders literally contribute back to the society they have harmed in a visible and tangible form. Secondly, such offenders are not exposed to criminal elements, as they would be in overcrowded facilities, and thirdly, this is much cheaper. However, these sort of sentences will only be handed down by judges and magistrates when they are confident that the offenders can be properly monitored by community corrections.
Secondly, we are concerned at the large amounts of money for agency and outsourced services that has increased by 135% this year to R1,5 billion. We all know that outsourced services come at a premium and that they are not subject to parliamentary scrutiny. We are equally concerned at the 9% increase in expenditure on communications to R88.5 million, and the R29 million allocated to a feasibility study for a new headquarters for the Department. These are “nice-to-haves”, and do not address the core business of correcting offending behaviour and rehabilitating offenders.
But, seen as a whole, the budget is starting to be aligned better to the ideals of the White Paper. We will continue to keep the Department under close observation, but I think it can now be moved out of intensive care.
The judiciary must be protected against intimidation
Note to Editors: The following speech was delivered in Parliament today by the DA Shadow Deputy Minister of Justice and Correctional Service, Adv.Werner Horn MP, during the Budget Vote on the Office of the Chief Justice and Judicial Administration.
The unenviable and thankless, but yet paramount task of our judiciary was described with great clarity in the 2006 judgment of our Constitutional Court, in the case of Affordable Medicines Trust VS the Minister of Health in which the Court held:
“The exercise of public power must, therefore, comply with the Constitution, which is the supreme law and the doctrine of legality … it entails that both the Legislature and the Executive are constrained in the principle that they may exercise no power and perform no function beyond that conferred on them by law.”
This uncomfortable reality is of course at the root of all of the ANC’s criticism against the judiciary – an ANC which more and more regrets ever insisting on installing constitutional supremacy in our country and who want to go back to parliamentary supremacy, so that they can use their majority to do exactly what they want, without any checks or balances.
Therefore, the continuous and constant criticism of the judiciary, especially every time it holds the ANC’s exercise of power to be unconstitutional, is, in fact, not only criticism, but part of an active campaign of intimidation against the judiciary.
In June 2013, the then President of the Supreme Court of Appeal, Justice Lex Mpati, had the following to say regarding the independence of the judiciary:
“An independent Judiciary requires both that individual judges are independent in the exercise of their powers, and that the judiciary as a whole is independent, its sphere of authority protected from wrongful interference by the other two branches of government … as for individual judges they must be protected from the threat of reprisals, so fear does not direct their decision making”.
For those still of the opinion that the lip service the Executive and the ANC sometimes pay to the supremacy of our Constitution, the rule of law and the independence of our judiciary should ally our fears, we say – don’t be fooled.
On Monday, just prior to the hearing of the matter in the Constitutional Court regarding the application of the United Democratic Movement (UDM) for a ruling on a secret ballot in the Vote of No-confidence debate, the Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng issued a statement that must be repeated here. He stated that:
“The South African judiciary reaffirms its commitment to the principles of independence, impartiality, dignity, accessibility and effectiveness of the courts.
The courts, as provided for in our Constitution, exist to promote the rule of law and to uphold the supreme law of the country, the Constitution.
The South African judiciary has been, and will continue to be fearless in its approach to promote the rule of law and safeguard its independence.
The South African judiciary further reaffirms its commitment to the doctrine of separation of powers – provided for in the Constitution – which vests the legislative autonomy in the Legislature, the executive autonomy in the Executive, and the judicial authority in the courts.”
Then, during the hearing, the Chief Justice made a startling, yet coded, revelation that members of the judiciary face unspecified threats.
In a throw-away comment during Monday’s Constitutional Court hearing, Chief Justice Mogoeng suggested that judges face dangers more serious than the risk of losing their jobs, for making unpopular decisions.
Chief Justice Mogoeng gave no specifics of the dangers he was alluding to, but every single South African who holds dear our constitutional democracy should be alarmed.
Clearly some incident moved the Chief Justice to make both of these rather startling statements.
Bearing in mind the stated importance of the principles mentioned by the Chief Justice, and the importance of a truly independent judiciary, who must apply the law without fear, favour or prejudice, it is extremely worrying that our judiciary are in all probability under threat of physical harm.
Add to this the specific content of the budget for the Office of the Chief Justice (OCJ) proposed here today, which does not even enable the full operationalisation of the Mpumalanga High Court or the Superior Courts Act, nor allow for either the upgrading of the security of the OCJ, nor for the personal security of judges.
The question must be asked why we should not brand this budget as yet another attempt to intimidate the judiciary into a state of deference to the Executive and the Legislature?
The DA cannot, in good conscience, support this budget.
Overcrowding remains the sore finger on the hand of the DCS
Note to editors: The following speech was delivered in Parliament today by the DA’s Shadow Deputy Minister of Correctional Services, Werner Horn MP, during the Budget Vote on Correctional Services.
It is, as has been pointed out here today, commendable that the audit outcome of Correctional Services has improved over the last years. This has allowed us to scrutinise with increased accuracy the performance of this Department.
It is not difficult to identify the sore fingers on the hand of Correctional Services as has been done here today by colleagues like the Honourable Selfe.
At the risk of oversimplifying the problems faced by the Department of Correctional Services (DCS), it must be stated that overcrowding remains the big problem. If addressed successfully, the ripple effect will improve not only the effectiveness of incarceration but also that of rehabilitation and social re-integration. This will simultaneously help to address the constant problems in retaining skilled staff, maintaining staff morale and motivation.
More than twenty years into our democracy, it really is unacceptable that some DCS facilities house two and a half times the number of detainees. They were it was intended for. And it really should not have been necessary for a Judge of the Constitutional Court inspect Pollsmoor and for an NGO to approach our Courts for an order to enforce his findings, to force the DCS to craft and implement plans to reduce overcrowding at facilities in bigger cities.
Chair, to ANC colleagues in committee, rather than using briefings like the one last week on how the DCS responded to the judicial report and order into conditions at Pollsmoor to criticise the judiciary because it has pointed out this sore finger, and rather than proposing that the Correctional Services Act must be amended to take away the rights and duties of our judiciary to visit correctional facilities, we, as members of the Legislature, should be introspective and ask why the judiciary is more effective in pointing out the human rights violations at our correctional facilities and bringing about the changes in living conditions of detainees we also talk about in committee ad nauseam?
I will tell you why. It is because you, as ANC members, are too scared to hold the Executive properly to account. You use your majority to ensure committees pay only lip service to oversight.
But this has now caught up with you. The reality is that if you did not, for the sake of political expediency over the years, create a situation where reporting is deemed to be equal to accounting, the Portfolio Committee could have been the institution issuing all the directives issued to ensure a plan of action was implemented to reduce overcrowding and improve the living conditions in Pollsmoor.
What’s more is that instead of looking failure squarely in the eye and making a promise to yourself to do better going forward, you instead berate the judiciary for overreach and ask why judges are allowed to inspect correctional facilities. This is a sad indication of how unsuited the ANC has become for government in a constitutional democracy.
Proper oversight would long have demanded that the DCS craft and implement the type of plans which was now ordered by our courts.
Proper oversight would long have ensured that the build programme, so necessary to create additional bed spaces, is accelerated beyond the promise recycled every year and presented as a fresh plan to create thousands of bed spaces.
Proper oversight should not be afraid of offending the Executive or finding failure.
Because proper oversight will always strengthen governance.
We need the type of good clean governance that will ensure the capital budget of the DCS is not only spent, but spent in a prudent, responsible manner. Ensuring that the taxpayer gets value for money for every cent allocated to the DCS and earmarked for the building and refurbishment of correctional facilities, the upgrading of IT and other reporting systems, of money allocated for not only the care of offenders, but also their rehabilitation and social re-integration.
This ANC government has shown that it can only talk about the strengthening of governance, but after 2019 a DA-led administration will show that it is possible to deliver.
For the sake of South Africa, we will make Correctional Services work.
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