The call comes after complaints that since Fraser’s appointment to the position in 2018 he has done very little to change how the Department of Correctional Services operates
THE POLICE and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) has called for Arthur Fraser, the national commissioner of the Department of Correctional Services (DCS), to resign.
The call comes after complaints that since Fraser’s appointment to the position in 2018 he has done very little to change how the department operates.
Popcru communications officer Richard Mamabolo highlighted grievances that the union has presented, which include a lack of staff safety, security and the overcrowding of the country’s correctional centres.
In particular, Mamabolo highlighted with concern the significance of the number of Covid-19 infections among staff at prisons.
“As understaffing and overcrowding continue to increase, so, too, has there been an increase in the level of Covid-19 infections, with a high incidence of security beaches – continued altercations that have led to officers being stabbed. And recently, the neglect of officers’ health and safety, which is accompanied by threats from management.”
According to Mamabolo, between January 6 and 16 the number of infections at correctional centres increased by 1,007, and resulted in 28 deaths.
Mamabolo said that the infections stemmed from the department not following regulations.
“This rise in infections is directly linked to the imposition of a 100% staff complement, despite it having been agreed by the National Steering Committee, in line with an HR directive, that a 50% staff complement should be rotated weekly to suppress the increasing levels of infection.”
The overcrowding of correctional centres was also reported to be a key factor in the rise of infections.
“It is noteworthy that South Africa has a total of 243 correctional centres with a bed capacity of 118,572. The department currently houses 138,070 inmates, resulting in an overcrowding rate of 14.12%.”
A source from the department said that Fraser was not fit to be the national commissioner, and that he had leveraged his vast network in intelligence to obtain the position.
“It is clear that from his time in the state intelligence agency that Fraser had access to vital information on important politicians and government officials that he could use to his advantage. Because of this, he was given a chance. But he has brought no new knowledge to the department in order to transform it. He is not fit for the post,” the source said.
“From a number of perspectives including administration, security, promotion, recruitment and proper planning, he has been found wanting. Despite the attempted changes at the department, there has been very little change. It seems that he is untouchable as other officials are suspended but he is still there, despite reports of an investigation by the Special Investigations Unit for a R50 million contract that was procured by his relatives.”
Department of Correctional Services spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo denied the claims.
“We have noted the inaccurate, deplorable and unfortunate statement by Popcru. When organised labour engages in such a bigoted way, then it becomes troubling and disturbing. Such dishonesty and misinformation meted out by Popcru can only point to an act of desperation to create enmity against Mr Fraser,” Nxumalo said.
“Overcrowding in correctional centres is a criminal justice problem. But in spite of that, DCS cannot sit back, hence we continuously engage with our partners in the JPS (justice, crime prevention and security) cluster. We had to accelerate infrastructure projects and have thus managed to create 1,101 additional bed spaces through the upgrading of old facilities.”
Nxumalo added that Covid-19 infections at correctional centres were under control, with many recoveries recorded.
“Covid-19 preventions have worked, and our strategy is dynamic, hence we are where we are today. We only have 934 active cases. Our recovery rate is 88%, which exceeds the national proportion. In actual figures, it is 9,049 recoveries against 10,185 cumulative positive cases. We have unfortunately lost at least 143 officials and 59 inmates.
“Popcru must be clear on their intentions and not try to find mud where it does not exist. Furthermore, we are not aware of an investigation by the Hawks, as Mr Fraser does not get involved in the awarding of contracts,” Nxumalo said.