Statement by the Minister of Correctional Services on the incidences of violence at the new generation Kimberley Correctional Facility, National Assembly, Parliament, Cape Town
13 Aug 2010
We want to thank the National Assembly, the parties and the Presiding Officers for granting our request to make a statement in this House relating to reported incidences of violence at our new generation correctional facility in Kimberley last week.
Normally we would not have brought this matter before the House here, but given some of the media reports relating to the levels and seriousness of the violence, we thought it necessary to put the record straight, providing clarity on the actual events, the response of government and further actions to be taken in that regard. I also wanted to use this opportunity to re-emphasise matters of policy relating to some of the issues that gave rise to dissatisfaction amongst offenders.
I had been on a visit to China, on 3 August, when I received a report that some of the inmates in K11 unit of our Kimberley Correctional Centre were rioting and have taken officials hostage at the centre. This was as a result of complaints that they have raised and the fact that they felt that management at centre level was not paying attention to their grievances.
From the preliminary reports that were received the following were their grievances and I will deal with the context of each one of these later:
The main grievance is about transfers and the fact that offenders are far away from their families
They complained about the provision of medical care
The shortage of materials provided for development and training.
Before dealing with these issues, let me indicate that about a month prior to this incident, the Deputy Minister, the National Commissioner and I, all visited the Kimberley Correctional facility as part of our scheduled visits to regions. During this visit some of the offenders have raised these and other concerns, and these were responded to, and action was taken to address some of them.
It must also be noted that because it is a new centre, only commissioned in March this year, operations at the Kimberley facility are being implemented through a phased-in approach and ramping it up to full capacity. Currently the facility has an occupancy of 2 543, and its full capacity is supposed to be 3 000. Most of the offenders have been transferred from other regions to alleviate overcrowding.
Secondly, the facility was designed and designated as a medium security facility. However, we have received reports in June this year, that due to overcrowding in some of our larger centres, certain of our regions have been transferring some maximum security offenders to these centres, and some of these offenders were irregularly reclassified.
On the grievances
I have, on several occasions, indicated that it will not be possible for us to consider blankently applications for transfer based on the reasons that an offender is far away from their home and family. If we were to do this, then this will make it difficult for us to manage overcrowding in our centres.
This is not to suggest that the department does not apply a policy of transfers. Such applications are considered on their merit, but what we are certainly weary of, is a situation where the only reason given is that of distance from an offenders family.
I have, however, already directed that the department makes arrangements to assist families to visit offenders either on a monthly or quarterly basis depending on the necessary economics and availability of funds.
After my visit, I directed that in the meantime, telephone booths should be installed in all units of the centre. This was done, although they have now been damaged, at least in the unit where the rioting took place.
2. Medical care and development workshops
During our visit, we had directed that the process of filling of medical care vacancies be fast tracked and finalised. At the time of our visit, nine nursing and 15 clinical posts were already advertised and are in the process of being finalised.
The procurement for material for the workshop has also been prioritised and will be delivered to the centre.
Lastly, let me indicate that it is true that during the riot, there has been burning of mattresses and other equipment in Unit K11. This has resulted in some officials and offenders requiring treatment for smoke inhalation. However, I want to make it categorically clear that no offender or official died during these riots as was erroneously reported in the media. It has been also fortunate that the riots also coincided with the scheduled visit by the portfolio committee of this very house.
I must also report here that the investigations into the conduct of both the offenders and the officials are continuing.
We have also dispatched a team from head office to handle the transfer of more experienced officials from other centres to the Kimberley centre as most of the officials are still new and directly from training.
The situation at the centre returned to normal two hours after the start of the incident and has remained calm since. We have however continued to monitor the process closely.
It is my hope that this account that we have made before this house will clarify the members and the public about what exactly transpired at the centre.
Source: Department of Correctional Services
Issued by: Department of Correctional Services
13 Aug 2010
[ Top ]