Unpaid parole board members set for court action

2016-10-16 18:00
  The Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Adv. Michael Masutha, MP, promised to deal with the board members allowances but has failed. Storie: Nico Gous Foto: Lisa Hnatowicz/Nuus Noord PHOTO:

The Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Adv. Michael Masutha, MP, promised to deal with the board members allowances but has failed. Storie: Nico Gous Foto: Lisa Hnatowicz/Nuus Noord PHOTO:

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Parole board members, who are owed millions of rands in unpaid allowances, have taken the department of justice and correctional services to court after battling for five years – without success – to get their money.

At issue is an allowance amounting to 37% of their salary, which – in terms of a Public Service Sector Bargaining Council resolution, adopted in 2007 – is to be paid to board members employed by the department.

At least four separate applications by parole board members in Gauteng, Mpumalanga, the Eastern Cape and the Western Cape are being lobbied to join the Labour Court action.

A member of the Johannesburg management area parole board, who asked not to be named for fear of being victimised, said: “There are a lot of such cases throughout the country. The largest group of more than 40 officials is in Johannesburg.

“One official has already been paid more than R1 million, while a chairperson is owed more than R2 million in unpaid benefits.”

He said officials in the Gauteng region did not want to go to court, but were forced to do so after their pleas fell on deaf ears. “These matters were raised as far back as 2005, when we were first appointed. In 2011, then minister of correctional services Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula appointed a task team to resolve these matters.

“We were never invited to any of the team’s meetings, despite the fact that it was supposed to be a joint task team.

“Several letters were written to the minister and the national commission, but we received no response ... They did not even have the decency to acknowledge receipt of these letters.”

Another parole board member said the group wrote to the portfolio committee on justice and correctional services, as well as the standing committee on public accounts, requesting their intervention. But, he alleges, the correctional services department bullied them into remaining silent.

The parole boards are still functional, but some members have told City Press the situation has hit “crisis point” and that it is a matter of time before they stop doing their work.

“The precedents have been set; people have been paid out after winning in previous cases. Yet, the department continues to waste money in defending the [new] cases on a matter already decided on, with similar merits.

“On July 3 last year, we met with Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Michael Masutha and were promised that all human resources matters were being attended to. He gave us a timeframe of two months, ending in September last year. This was not honoured, so class actions were intensified.”

Meanwhile, Western Cape parole board chairperson Zalisile Mkhontwana and 14 others are scheduled to appear before the Labour Court in Cape Town on Wednesday for their application to get the court to order the department to pay the allowance.

However, Mkhontwana’s attorney Riyaaz Parker said he understood that the state attorney in the Western Cape would apply to court to have the cases consolidated with a Johannesburg Labour Court application – brought by the Johannesburg board members and led by former board member Solomon Lekgetho.

Parker cautioned that, should their application be successful, this would come at a “significant” cost to the department and Treasury as some payments being claimed dated back five years or more.

Correctional services spokesperson Manelisi Wolela confirmed that there were several court disputes.

“The correctional services department can confirm that a number of parole boards around the country have taken the department to court on various matters. Owing to the ongoing court cases, the department cannot comment further,” he said.

Vincent Jones, chairperson of the Johannesburg management area parole board, confirmed that they were drafting papers for a class action on behalf of members.

Should the correctional services compensate parole board members and why?

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Read more on:    michael masutha  |  correctional services  |  parole board

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