WELCOMING ADDRESS National Commissioner of the Department of Correctional Services Ms Xoliswa Sibeko at the Launch of Corrections Week – 2008 held at the Church Square in Pretoria on 14 November 2008 Programme Director Minister of Correctional Services - Mr Ngconde Balfour Deputy Minister of Correctional Services- Ms Loretta Jacobus Director General in the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development– Mr Menzi Simelane Acting National Director of Public Prosecutions – Adv. Mokotedi Mpshe Members of the Executive Management Committee of Correctional Services, managers and staff members Distinguished Guests Members of the Media Ladies and Gentlemen, both here and those listening on radio It is my pleasure to get this opportunity to welcome all our honoured guests and officials of the Department of Correctional Services to this important gathering today. Before any further ado, let me take the opportunity to acknowledge a said loss we suffered as the nation, the passing on of our beloved Mama Africa, Miriam Makeba. The nation is mourning, flags are flying at half mast nationally and internationally as an honour of this great warrior of special type, who broke walls of segregation and armed soldier of goodwill with her melodies. On behalf of Correctional Services, I express our heartfelt condolences to her family, friends, colleagues and the nation during this period of mourning. Ladies and gentlemen, let us stand and pay our last respects to this gallant Goodwill Ambassador of our country, who soldiered on to the absolute last moment. (Moment of silence observed – Robala ka Kgotso Mama Africa – you will always be part of us”) From sad new to good news. I am happy to informed those who may not have heard the news, our Minister has been clear of any wrong doing by the Joint Committee on Ethics and Members Interests yesterday. The announcement made by Mr. Luwellyn Landers, the Chair of the Ethics Committee said the committee unanimously agreed that there was nothing improper in the way Minister Balfour bought his VW Toureg and that he had paid installments since the beginning of the contract and there was never any settlement for it. We all know, this follows a bitter and destructive campaign paddled with perhaps naïve assistance of the media and many other probably innocent commentators. This vindication of the Minister’s claims to innocence and being clean, is a cause for celebration and therefore I would appeal to all of you to stand and give our Minister and round of applause. The launch of the Corrections Week Campaign is indeed a significant highlight in the corporate events calendar of Correctional Services. This dedicated week helps us educate communities about our mandate, our successes, our challenges which we strongly believe require the rest of the South African population to put their hands on deck to sharpen our systems and measures aimed at defeating the huge and ugly monster of crime that is ravaging our societies. We have witnessed the horrific abuse of our women, children and babies; as well as violent crimes committed against our loved ones, friends and members of our communities. We also know that many of the abnormal, violent and abhorrent criminal behaviour we have witnessed is rooted in far more complex societal problems that need to be addressed through more constructive ways to ensure that this country is successful in its bid to win the fight against crime. I am particularly excited about this focus week. When I assumed my duties as head of this Department and received numerous briefings about the magnitude of the assignment I have been given now, I realised that we would not be able to reach the targets that we had set ourselves and contribute to of eradication of crime in our country, unless we worked harder to strengthen partnerships with all relevant stakeholders. In this regard, I will be traveling in the coming few weeks and months to meet and have conversations with officials and partners to find innovative and simpler ways of sharpening our individual and collective competences for handling the task at hand. We need to always ensure that we are on the right path and that our interventions do indeed yield the desire results. I am committed to ensuring that as we endeavour to strengthen efforts to produce results for our country, we also put our own house in order. We know as a department that we’ve had for some time a persisting problem of corruption which in some instances hinders our work, and this regard I will ensure we do a thorough audit of all current investigations in order to deal with each case appropriately, speedily with though action taken against those found to have contravened our laws. Indeed as a Department we believe that partnerships work better and produce better results and so today we are asking you to come and help us because we are not convinced that punishment of offenders on its own is sufficient to deal with the problems we have identified. While we acknowledge the severity of the impact that such acts of criminality have had on victims, we don’t believe that we should condemn the offenders to a life in a system that doesn’t prioritise constructive intervention. With such a temptation we run the risk of exposing ourselves again to individuals who know nothing other that to cause others pain once they finish serving their sentences and are released. We are working hard and consulting widely with our partners to ensure that we implement rehabilitation programmes that would give us the desired result in the fight against crime. Our Department’s core message calls for business unusual and for all to put their hands on deck to detain, rehabilitate and re-integrate offenders for a safer South Africa. For this year’s Corrections Week Campaign we are placing greater emphasis on the third leg of our mandate, social re- integration of offenders we believe have made good use of our opportunities for new beginnings. In essence we are focusing on encouraging communities to give second chances to rehabilitated offenders. In just a few minutes the Deputy Minister Ms Loretta Jacobus will release into the air balloons that carry in them a message from a number offenders in our facilities and it reads “I am an offender and have committed a crime – I am deeply sorry for what I have done and request your forgiveness. I am undergoing rehabilitation programmes and ask that you will pray for me. Thank you for a second chance” Therefore I urge all South Africans to join hands with us and help us build a safer country and break the cycle of crime by affording reformed offenders a chance to rebuild their lives. This is not an event, but an ever ongoing programme we must never tire to improve. Programme Director, I am acutely aware that this is not the beginning, but an opportunity for accelerating many existing partnerships while forging many on many fronts. You presence in this gathering bears testimony to this. I therefore wish to say, feel welcome and if a need arises you may even take off your coats or jackets. I thank you!