Minister of Justice Ronald Lamola says the implementation of social distancing at some correctional facilities is impossible as most centers are overcrowded.
Speaking to a joint meeting of the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services, and the Select Committee on Security and Justice, Lamola says this is not unique to South Africa.
“America and other countries in the rest of the world experience the same challenge. All we can do is to practise good hygiene like washing and cleaning our hands regularly,” Lamola said.
The committees heard that over 135 cases of infections in four provinces had so far been noted at correctional facilities, with both officials and inmates testing positive.
Lamola says, “Protective gear and sanitising products were a challenge in the beginning. We informed the centres that as they have sewing machines they can produce their own cloth masks and over 17 000 masks have been produced already.”
Correctional centres have taken the stance to screen officials on a daily basis, since infections are brought in either by officials or new inmates.
The Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry, Mr Bulelani Magwanishe, said this is not just a challenge that the Department of Correctional Services can address alone, he says it also requires the assistance of the Department of Health.
The committee was told that sanitisers and cloth masks are available at courts, with two cloth masks and a box of cloves made available per official, also a total of R10 million has been set aside for protective equipment and gear for court officials.
Regarding the court system Lamola told the committees that lockdown level 4 is still going to be very tight and strict regarding the movement of people at court.
He says courts don’t have video conferencing and the audio-visual remand system, however, online systems were used at times for postponements.
Confirmed cases in correctional facilities
Nearly 140 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in correctional facilities in four provinces of the country. This is according to Justice and Correctional Services Minister, Ronald Lamola.
He briefed Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services as well as the Select committee on Security and Justice on a virtual platform on what arrangements the department has put in place to deal with COVID-19 in prisons.
The biggest concentration of COVID-19 cases in prisons is at East London in the Eastern Cape. It is understood that the spread was caused by an official that attended a funeral.
Justice and Correctional Services minister, Ronald Lamola, says nearly 140 cases have been confirmed.
”As of 28 April 2019, we have a total of 138 cases across four provinces in correctional services which include head office. The East London facility was first which has now 35 officials and 56 inmates who have tested positive,” explains Lamola.
The committee has also heard that corruption, with regard to COVID-19 related matters, is being investigated. This is according to the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) Shamila Batohi.
”There have been reports of COVID-19 related corruption where people get involved in illegal activities in various relief interventions. Give law enforcement a chance to show that we can immediately respond to corruption swiftly. Not dealing with it years later like the state capture but will deal with it efficiently,” adds the Batoyi.
The Deputy Minister of Correctional Services, Phathekile Holomisa, has confirmed that the department is addressing corruption related to COVID-19 interventions in the department.
”Yes indeed [we] aware of reports of corruption involving senior officials of the department … [we are] looking into it, designing ways of addressing it,” explains Holomisa.
Minister Ronald Lamola explains COVID-19 screening at Correctional Services