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Prisoners Do It For Themselves: Lamola

Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola, says “there is no Bosasa at correctional services”.

The minister said the contract with the controversial services company has been cancelled and inmates are now doing the work they should have been doing all along.

“The contract of Bosasa is terminated. There is no Bosasa as we speak at correctional services. So inmates are cooking their own food as we speak now,” insists Lamola. “They eat, they bake their own bread; they do everything that relates to their own lives. It’s an opportunity, a big one, from that transition of Bosasa. It’s an opportunity for us to give these opportunities to the inmates to learn.”

In February this year, the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) served African Global Operations (as Bosasa is now known) with a 30-day notice to terminate its contract to provide food to prisons.

This followed shocking allegations made at the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture. Bosasa used to provide three meals a day to prisoners at 26 prisons, which collectively house 46 434 prisoners – 29% of the total inmate population of correctional facilities in the country.

The commission heard that Bosasa allegedly spent close to R6m a month on bribes for prison officials and that the company was awarded tenders in return.

Lamola admits he is worried about the legacy of the Bosasa relationship at the department.

“Ja, we are worried because the name of the correctional services department has been tarnished so we need to restore that integrity but also the morale of the staff is very low. We will need to work on uplifting their morale. We will also need to work on ensuring that the inmates gear up to things that they should have been doing themselves anyway so that they can become better citizens,” he noted.

In a wide-ranging interview on Monday, the minister said he wanted to see an overhaul of the country’s prison system and a renewed focus on the rehabilitation of prisoners.

“If a person has entered the sea or a river, at least they must come out wet. They must come out a different person and that’s how we see them, as people in a boarding school who when they are there, they must be taught something,” Lamola said.

“Obviously the current system we have is the one that we have inherited from apartheid which is that the prisons are just to warehouse people. They were put there for 20 years and then they go home. But the challenge is, it means that when people exit our facilities, they don’t have any skill. What are they going to do outside? The first shortcut returning to activities of crime.

“So we have got farms, we have got bakeries, we have got manufacturing. These things must be used to educate the inmates – a second chance for the offenders so that when they leave our facilities, they will be able to have a second life in their communities. Otherwise, the inevitable will happen and we don’t want that to happen again,” pointed out Lamola.

Meanwhile, the minister would not be drawn into the controversy around National Commissioner of Correctional Services Arthur Fraser.

The former director general of the State Security Agency was at the centre of a report by a high-level review panel which looked at the state of the country’s intelligence agencies. The panel found widespread abuse of the country’s intelligence services for political ends.

Fraser is also suing journalist Jacques Pauw for R35m, claiming his book contains defamatory material centred on the Principal Agent Network (PAN) which was also the subject of the review panel’s report.

“Obviously our relationship, myself and him, is not the relationship of feelings. It’s not a love relationship where it’s feelings. This one, it’s a matter that is sub judice. He has taken the matter to court, there’s an issue between him and the president. I will leave it at that. And the commissioner is appointed by the president,” explained Lamola. -DM