KZN warders told to toe the line

2015-07-06 19:13

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Durban - KwaZulu-Natal correctional services regional commissioner Mnikelwa Nxele on Monday issued a stern warning to "ill-disciplined" employees to toe the line or risk losing their jobs.

“There is a small group of people that wants to drag the name of the centre into the mud because they want to hide their ill-discipline," he cautioned on Monday.

“These members think they can hold the centre at ransom and we are saying to them and their families - they are risking losing their jobs.

“We as the department will not tolerate any form of ill-discipline. If there are issues they want to raise then we are here,” said Nxele.  

Nxele was speaking at a press briefing at Durban’s Westville Correctional Services after members working in the centre's Medium A took to the streets on Saturday demanding that their head, Bheki Mlambo, be removed.

He said problems at Medium A, which houses about 3 000 awaiting trial male detainees, had been brewing for weeks.  

“Medium A is the main awaiting trial area we have in the province. I think we are among the few in South Africa that are exclusively designated as an awaiting trial facility.

“So the slightest disruption is something that we would not take kindly to because we need to ensure that people who are alleged to have committed a crime are prosecuted and if found guilty, return as sentenced.”

Nxele said, “What has been happening here is that two months ago workers in Medium A began to raise concerns with management and matters were escalated to the regional offices.

“We met with the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union [Popcru] in April and after that meeting I met with the staff at Medium A to talk to them about the issues raised in the meeting with Popcru.”

Ill-discilpine

Nxele said some of the issues raised were that management responded harshly in disciplining alleged ill-disciplined employees and some employees called for the removal of Mlambo.  

An independent Correctional Services staffer from the Eastern Cape was roped in to compile a report on what was happening in Medium A.

“In June the director reported that there was an element of ill-discipline in the centre manifesting in the form of people coming to work late and people simply disappearing during the course of their shifts and management has been trying to deal with the problem.

“We cannot have a dysfunctional correctional system because the stakes are high and the implications are serious,” said Nxele.

In mid-June Nxele went to meet with the disgruntled employees and a decision was taken to provide transport to prevent workers from arriving late at work.

“It was a gesture of meeting them half way to ensure that no one arrives late at work because these matters are creating clashes and poor working relations

Emergency task team

Nxele said there was no cause for panic because the centre was functioning under an emergency task team.

A shop steward who asked to remain anonymous said the group of about 200 would continue striking until management addresses their issues.

“The centre has been severely affected. On Saturday prisoners received their first meal at 10:00 instead of 7:00 and some of them are on treatment.

“Some of them were not taken to the hospital and we did not do a head count on Saturday,” he said.

He accused the centre's head of abusing authority, suspending members without following due processes and sowing divisions in the centre.

Provincial secretary of Popcru Kwenza Nxele said: “We met with the commissioner after receiving complaints from our members. Medium A had always been a peaceful working centre until the arrival of Mlambo. We started receiving a lot of complaints from our members who told us that he is running the centre like a spaza shop and operates like an dictator.”

He said there was a misunderstanding on Saturday, not a strike. “There was a little commotion on Saturday when our shop stewards were removed from Medium A and placed in other institutions. They said that management was leaving them vulnerable.  We also called for the recommendations of the report to be made public because they have nothing to hide,” said Nxele.

Nxele said two shop stewards have been suspended following Saturday’s incident.

Read more on:    popcru  |  durban

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