The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPCRU) calls for the immediate removal of the Department of Correctional Service’s (DCS) National Commissioner, Mr Arthur Fraser who has contributed nothing to the transformation of the department.
Since being transferred to the DCS back in 2018, there has been no improvement in the department, and he has been ignorant and out of touch with the deteriorating conditions under which correctional officers and centres are confined to.
As understaffing and overcrowding continue to increase, so has been the increase in the level of Covid-19 infections, with high incidents of security breaches, continued altercations that have led to officers being stabbed, and recently, the neglect of the health and safety of officers, which are accompanied by threats from the very management.
Within a period 10 days, between the 6th to the 16th of January 2021, the levels of infections within correctional centres have increased by 1007, with the death rate increasing by 28, and these numbers continue increasing on a daily basis.
This takes place after 68 deaths of correctional officers between March and October 2020, and a further 69 deaths from October 2020 till now, increasing the death rate by 100%.
These rises in infections are directly linked to the imposition of the 100% staff complement, despite having agreed in the National Steering Committee, in line with the HR Directive 7, that a 50% staff complement should be rotated on a weekly basis to suppress the increasing levels of infection.
This unilateral imposition resulted in members being threatened of losing their jobs, while others were told they would get leave without pay. The regulations issued by the Minister of Labour says if a member does not feel safe, that member cannot be forced to work. But the DCS has been ruling by fear, even when members are not feeling well and self-quarantining, they are threatened with harsh disciplinary processes.
The DCS has also been understating their statistics, with the aim of protecting their incompetent conduct. While correctional officers die on a regular basis, the National Commissioner still has no tangible plan to reduce the high rate of infections and fatalities, and the established National Steering Committee has been dysfunctional as decisions around its operations are taken elsewhere, excluding the full participation of stakeholders.
Our correctional centres are a high-risk environment for the widespread of the virus, particularly in overcrowded facilities whereby the department cannot maintain adequate standards of health and safety such as the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE), physical distancing, proper sanitation and other health and safety protocols as prescribed by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
It is noteworthy to indicate that South Africa has a total of 243 correctional centres with a bed capacity of 118 572. The Department currently houses approximately 138 070 inmates, resulting in an overcrowding rate of 14.12%. This factor, coupled with increasing numbers of Covid-19 infections, is a serious cause for concern. The DCS has a staff complement of just below 34 000, with 12 000 doing administration and 22 000 guarding the inmates.
In most cases, we have 2 officers guarding 300 inmates in a unit. With the arrogance displayed by the DCS management, we will be left with no choice but to tell our members not to go inside these centres. The fact that they provide essential services does not mean they should endanger their lives, and they do not have spare lives.
These managers that are taking decisions which have adversely affected our members are not even on the ground, but in air-conditioned offices. They don’t even visit these centres, but give instructions while sitting in offices.
Correctional officials continue to remain vulnerable to attacks because the Correctional centres management force them to escort inmates single-handedly, going against its policy of having 2 officials for an individual offender.
We want to categorically state that all correctional officials across the country should blatantly refuse to escort maximum inmates to the courts or hospitals if the ratio is not 2;1, meaning that there should at all times be two correctional officials escorting one inmate, excluding a driver.
All officials should work strictly in accordance with the defined policies, and no amount of intimidation from the management will be tolerated by POPCRU.
On learnership within DCS
We have noted the DCS’s underhanded attitude regarding the termination of learners’ contracts. The department has trained 2000 learners who have successfully completed their training, and have met the standards qualifying to become correctional officials.
We are however agitated by the department’s decision to terminate their services, after having been exposed to the corrections security environment.
Instead, the department has opted to leave out those with full training, and absorb 986 people from the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) on a permanent basis. We are not against the department taking people to come and work in its operations, but are against the department leaving out fully trained people in favour of those who do not have the necessary, proven capabilities, and still need to undergo training.
We demand that these 2000 learners be immediately absorbed into the DCS. We encourage our members not to comply with unlawful instructions We demand an immediate return to the 50% staff complement We demand the immediate removal of the DCS National Commissioner, Mr Arthur Fraser
Issued by POPCRU on 18/01/2021For more information contact Richard Mamabolo on 066 135 4349