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Union ‘condemns’ transfer of inmate to N Cape


The inmate was apparently exhibiting Covid-19 symptoms.

THE PUBLIC Servants Association (PSA) in the Northern Cape has condemned the transfer of an offender, who was apparently exhibiting Covid-19 symptoms, from Gauteng to a Correctional Services facility in Upington.

PSA provincial manager Steve Ledibane stated that the transfer was approved without following national guidelines.

“Covid-19 precautions were not followed. Upon arrival at the Upington correctional centre, the inmate was showing signs of infection with the virus. No proper safety measures were taken to isolate the inmate,” said Ledibane.

Ledibane called for stern action to be taken against officials. “These actions have endangered the safety of employees.”

He further urged the Department of Correctional Services’ area commissioner and head of centre at Tswelopele Correctional Centre in Kimberley to refrain from allegedly threatening the union’s members.

“Employees who point out clear flaws in the screening process are threatened with unpaid leave and disciplinary procedures,” stated Ledibane.

Ledibane added that the union was waiting for feedback after raising concerns about the screening process. “The union has demanded that correctional institutions in the Northern Cape comply with the occupational health and safety requirements.

He indicated that union members employed at correctional facilities were advised not to compromise their health by following “irresponsible decisions and instructions”.

The PSA also expressed concern that there was apparently a shortage of personal protective equipment, including gloves, masks and thermal scanners, at the majority of Correctional Services facilities in the country.

The union stated that offenders should not be moved between centres in order to prevent the spread of Covid-19, where the impact of overcrowding and understaffing would result in drastic consequences.

The acting regional commissioner referred media enquiries to the national Department of Correctional Services.

The national spokesperson for the Department of Correctional Services, Singabakho Nxumalo, stated that, as of Monday, all confirmed cases of Covid-19 were located in the Eastern Cape, while one person had tested positive at head office.

He added that the movement of inmates had been limited to an extent, as court appearances were done through the audio video remand system.

“We have hospitals inside our centres. Only complicated cases are referred to outside hospitals. Searching and subjecting our officials to security scrutiny continues in order to prevent contraband,” said Nxumalo.

He stated that the department had activated infection prevention control measures at all management areas to ensure that personal protective equipment (PPE) was availed.

“We have prioritised for the sanitation of reception areas, cells, offices, vehicles and ablution facilities.”

Nxumalo said that they were focused on prevention, containment, treatment and disaster recovery.

“Questions have been raised about the impact that the correctional system is likely to face during the state of a disaster.  We continue to detail our plans and respond whenever clarity is sought. Correctional Services has been very transparent, and provides updates on the situation on the ground.”

Nxumalo added that screening was being conducted at all centres in line with guidelines issued by the Department of Health.

“Supplies are being provided continuously, both for inmates and officials.  Improving personal and environmental hygiene, provision of personal equipment, sanitisation and decontamination are some of the interventions that were implemented.”

He explained that a system was in place for correctional centres that experienced shortages while awaiting delivery of hygiene products.

“Centres are able to share resources and we continue to engage with our officials and inmates.”

Nxumalo added that the department had suspended all visits at prisons for 30 days to prevent the transmission of the virus.

“Furthermore, we are using this period in order to put in place preventative and mitigating measures against the spread of Covid-19.”

He said a team comprising of security experts as well as professionals were appointed to conduct a scenario planning exercise.

“They will be working with other security cluster partners to explore and consider different crisis and emergency possibilities. Appropriate and operationally responsive interventions must be developed should the epidemic reach unimagined proportions in the country.”

Nxumalo added that mobile quarantine sites were procured for the isolation of infected inmates who were waiting to be moved to hospitals outside state facilities.

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