KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY CORRECTIONAL SERVICES DEPUTY
MINISTER, HONOURABLE MS HLENGIWE MKHIZE, MP,
DURING THE LAUNCH OF THE IMBELEKO PROJECT, EAST
LONDON CORRECTIONAL CENTRE, WESTBANK, 26 AUGUST
The MEC for Transport, Safety and Liaison, Honorable Gloria Gishma
Regional Commissioner, N.J Jolingana
The Executive Mayor of the Buffalo City Municipality, Ms Zukiswa Faku
Representatives of the private sector
Leaders of faith-based formations
Ladies and gentlemen,
Our gathering here today is, indeed, testimony to our belief in the words of
Dorothy Corkille Briggs, who wrote in her book (Your Child’s Self-esteem),
written as early as 1970, that, “Every normal infant is born with the potential for
psychological health. But whether that potential flourishes depends on the
psychological climate lived in. A high self-esteem comes from the quality of the
relationship that exists between the child and those who play a significant role in
his or her life”.
It is our conviction in the Department of Correctional Services that the
children’s physical, emotional social and intellectual needs must all be
met if they are to enjoy life, develop their full potential and grow into
participating, contributing adults. There is no doubt the environment is
of overriding importance to the development of the child.
Today we meet here out of the urgent need to introduce a system aimed at
improving the management and treatment of babies and infants in correctional
centres around South Africa. This initiative seeks to find alternative ways that
have the best interest of children at heart. The placement of the babies with
suitable extended families on foster care and possible adoption is fully supported
by the Children’s Act 38 of 2005 as amended, which gives effect to certain rights
of children as contained in the Constitution. The Act sets out principles for the
care and protection of children.
In this context, our initiative to address the plight of babies through the launch of
the IMBELEKO PROJECT in correctional facilities is aligned to the Government
Plan of Action (GPOA) of creating a safe environment for all children to grow up
in. In addition, in his State of the Nation Addrees, President Jacob Zuma,
committed government to service delivery by outlining a programme of action
that saw the established of a New Ministry in the Presidency; the Ministry for
Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities. This strategic development
means that all vulnerable groups, especially children, enjoy the privilege of
receiving priority attention from our government.
This New Ministry is also established to ensure the mainstreaming of services
and programmes by government departments, communities and civil society for
the betterment and enhancement of the quality of life of children in South Africa.
South Africa is a signatory to various international as well as the national treaties,
with the noble intention to protect children. The UN Convention on the Rights
of the Child, for example, makes provision for interventions appropriate to the
child’s well being whilst in the institutional care.
Further, the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of
Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw); and the SADC Addendum on the
Eradication of Violence Against Women and Children, prohibits any form of
violence against women and children. To ensure that the above protocols are not
just reduced to paper, the Department of Correctional Services, as an organ of
the state, has taken a number of strides to fully embrace government’s strategies
and is maintaining a firm position of promoting and complying with these treaties.
Section 28 (1) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa of 1996
emphasizes that every child has a right to be kept in conditions and be treated in
a manner that takes into account the child’s age and medical condition. It also
emphasizes the fact that the best interest of the child is of paramount in
interventions related to children.
The Department of Correctional Services, aligning itself with other broader
government programmes of action, has prioritized children’s issues by ensuring
that the best interests of the babies are prioritized, introduced the Correctional
Services Amendment Act (Act No 25 of 2008), where the age of the babies
who are with their incarcerated mothers has been reduced from the age of 5
years to 2 years. This is aimed at ensuring that these infants are reintegrated
back into society whilst still at an early and formative stage, so that they can still
undergo socialization within a proper and natural environment.
In pursuing these mandates; the Department has undertaken this initiative to
build and strengthen systems for the effective management and treatment of the
babies within the Correctional facilities. The initiative is directly aligned to the
Departments’ strategic direction to reach out to the vulnerable as outlined in the
White Paper on Corrections in South Africa (2005) and in the DCS Strategic
Plan. The strategic plan of DCS succinctly reflects our position to provide needs
based services to the vulnerable groups falling within the ambit of our services.
This includes our innocent babies who happen to find themselves in DCS
Babies find themselves in the Correctional system not out of their own choice,
but because of the circumstances that their mothers find themselves in. These
babies are admitted with their mothers in the Correctional facilities because the
mothers are serving a sentence or are Awaiting Trial Detainees (ATD). Some are
born in Correctional Facilities since their mothers were sentenced whilst
pregnant. The correctional environment is not conducive for the child’s
development since the DCS structure (facility) was never meant for such child-
There are currently 168 babies within Correctional facilities nationally as on the
06 August 2009, with Gauteng leading with a total number of 84 babies.
The incarceration of mothers with babies including those mothers who are
expectant is compounded by the adversarial nature of the Criminal Justice
System which does at times not consider the best interest of the child who is
dependant on the perpetrator (mother) for purposes of care, protection, nurturing
Research and literature attests to the counter effects of imprisonment on children
as well as the negative effects of the restrictive walls of the Correctional facilities.
As a result the Department is undertaking the IMBELEKO PROJECT to forge
partnerships with all the relevant stakeholders to build and strengthen efforts for
effective management and treatment of the babies within the Correctional
Currently the Department renders services and programmes to mothers and
babies who are with their incarcerated mothers in partnership with the external
service providers and other stakeholders. Such efforts are highly appreciated and
there is a need to formalise partnerships as the previous interventions particularly
from other State Departments have not been adequately tapped on to address
the plight of babies in Correctional Facilities.
Let me not hesitate to say that the strategy that we are launching today is two
pronged. I have been talking of placing the babies out but we must agree that the
Correctional Services Act as amended makes provision for babies to stay with
their mothers in DCS facilities up to the age of two. The Department therefore
has an obligation to normalise the environment to respond appropriately to the
needs of these children until these babies are ready to be placed out as stated in
the Correctional Services Amendment Act (Act No 25 of 2008).
In this regard, the work of the Regional Commissioner and her team of experts in
the Eastern Cape is commendable for ensuring that the babies are
accommodated in a more homely environment by ensuring that their
developmental needs are somehow addressed. The East London mother and
child unit is a benchmark and a blue print of how our facilities can be revamped
and upgraded to be child friendly. This model can be adopted and replicated in
the other centres where babies are accommodated.
To ensure that we are rolling out this excellent programme to other centres
around the country, the Department has already undertaken the following ground
Profiled babies to determine their circumstances, their location in different
regions, their age groups, the availability of social support system, as well as the
circumstances of their mothers.
Profiling mothers to determine their personal circumstances, current support
systems and their prospects to look after the child after they complete their
Vigorously engaged mothers in the intensive preparation for separation with their
babies in order to ensure that mothers understand the position of the Department
and that it is not to be punitive towards the baby but to ensure that the best
interests of the babies are kept at a centre stage.
The auditing of the female centres as well as the mother and child unit is
underway as well and the results of this audit will assist the Department to
identify what need to be done to harmonise our facilities.
Trained Early Childhood Development (ECD) practitioners in partnership with the
Department of Education
In Conclusion, I stand here today to urge all the stakeholders, and the general
South African public, to work together with the Department of Correctional
Services in addressing the plight of all babies currently in our facilities. You will
also recall that during the State of the Nation address, the President of the
country made a call; urging all South Africans to work together in building a
cohesive, caring and sustainable communities through intensifying service
Correctional Services alone cannot work in isolation in building a caring society
for children; the involvement of the community is critical as corrections is a
societal responsibility. It is therefore of utmost importance that the external
stakeholders join hands with the Department to find alternative suitable
placement for the babies in our facilities. The alternative placements include
placement with the extended family members, placement on foster care or even
adoption depending on the circumstance of each child. The role that other
Departments need to play such as Department of Social Development,
Department of Education, Department of Justice, Civil Society formations and the
community in general is very critical.
In line with the IMBELEKO INITIATIVE, the Department is appealing to all
stakeholders in the community to embrace and accept the responsibility to care
for these children. We should always remember that it takes the community to
raise the child.