Remarks during the handing over of gifts to female offenders and babies of offenders by Ms Hlengiwe Mkhize, Deputy Minister of Correctional Services Pretoria, Correctional Centre
9 Dec 2009
Programme Director, Mr Sipamla
Acting Regional Commissioner, Mr Bouwer
Department of Correctional Services stakeholders
Ladies and gentlemen
The end of the year, the world over, is a time for reflection. It marks a special season in the days of our lives.
This is the time of thanks giving, a season of joy during which friends and families spend quality time with their loved ones, together celebrating the year gone by.
It is a time during which the community spirit prevails. We pause to think of the less fortunate and seek ways of making the season of giving better for them. I'm sure you're all feeling the biting pain of cold cells and rattling keys; even the more this time around.
I should be saying to you "let the good times roll!" I know that for inmates locked away from loved ones, especially female offenders and mothers living with babies behind bars, this can be a very sad and difficult time.
As we join you today to celebrate the end of the year with you, we want to assure you that all is not lost. All of us, wherever we are, have the privilege to fully enjoy the spirit of this season of goodwill.
We thought we should join you today to lessen as far as we possibly can the impact of incarceration and lonely days away from your families. If we do not extend this gesture of love and caring, for you this season will regrettably turn into a time of solitude and emptiness. It would even be harder for mothers in here with their babies.
Your happiness during this time of the year will ensure that the babies who are with you in here also get a chance to be loved, against all odds, and to feel the warmth of a mother's embrace.
We will not deny the fact that for mothers in here with their babies, and those who also happen to be mothers to other children outside correctional facilities, the sadness is even deeper. We know that your pain is worsened by the thought of being absent from home where you would be sharing special moments with loved ones.
In spite of all the factors that brought you here, you are still loved! We care for our women and children. This should be an important message because this occasion falls during the 16 Days of Activism Campaign for No Violence against Women and Children. It is during this time that we focus on the human rights of women and children.
We commend officials in Correctional Services, including the Development and Care Branch, who have made this day possible. Acting Chief Deputy Commissioner for Development and Care, at the time this gesture was proposed, Ntate Mketshane, told me that our officials reached into their pockets in order to secure the toys that we will be passing on to the babies.
It is heartening that our officials remembered that children use toys for self-expression and for constructing and making sense of their world. Play is a very effective diagnostic and therapeutic tool. We thank you for remembering that for the child to achieve optimal development, socially, physically and intellectually, she needs an environment that stimulates growth. These toys will go a long way in contributing to the creation of the child-friendly environment we are striving for.
A warm 'thank you' goes also to all our stakeholders who have made generous donations. It is through your selfless efforts that we have these gifts that we can give to the inmates and babies in a gesture of Ubuntu, Botho, humanness. Your efforts show that as Correctional Services, we cannot achieve our goals in isolation, Corrections is a societal responsibility.
This gesture of kindness that has made it possible for us to come and spend time here, at the Pretoria Correctional Centre, supports the Imbeleko initiative which was launched in August this year to create a humane environment conducive to the needs of mothers and babies. We are still to visit the Gauteng Region to officially launch Imbeleko.
Although we are using Imbeleko to improve conditions of mothers and babies behind bars, our message remains unchanged: A Correctional Centre is not a place for women and children!
The message we want to give to our female inmates is this: Use this time to reflect on yourself; take stock and promise yourself that you will never again enter these gates. Your children need you, and your country needs you.
I challenge you to help us break the cycle of crime by ensuring you become exemplary mothers. Turn your stay here into a learning opportunity. Like many of those outside who will be making many New Year resolutions, commit yourself in earnest to making the right choices in life, and make the best out of a difficult situation.
Talking about making choices brings this inspiring poem by Ntsiki Mazwai to mind. She calls it "Chosen life". And indeed, we can all learn from it. It says:
We wander aimlessly,
Drowsy from the fear of losing,
Whispered at the bottom of my soul
But I chose life
Because I knew that if I didn't live, at that
Very moment, I would die.
I choose life
Because I realise that today's tragedies
Must pave the way to tomorrow's gladness…
I chose life because,
I choose to live.
I challenge you to also make your choices carefully. Our officials are here to help you. Take part seriously in all the rehabilitation programmes we offer, not only for parole's sake; but mainly to redesign your lives. As the song goes – "None but ourselves can free our minds!"
It is my wish and hope that our lovely babies will derive joy and happiness from this gesture. As mentioned earlier, toys are not only playing stuff. All these things need to be said and done in the best interest of the child.
I wish all of you a good festive season and a better year ahead!
I thank you.
Cell: 082 052 3499
Issued by: Department of Correctional Services
9 December 2009
Issued by: Department of Correctional Services
9 Dec 2009
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