Efforts to prevent crime in Patensie, Eastern Cape, have been given a boost. Deputy Minister of Correctional Services Thabang Makwetla recently launched South Africa’s first Ex-Offenders’ Desk in the area.
The Ex-Offenders’ Desk will create, manage and monitor programmes that will help communities prevent crime. The village is renowned for its quality oranges and potatoes. Almost all of the town’s 5 700 inhabitants make a living by doing seasonal work on the commercial farms in the surrounding area.
Deputy Minister Makwetla urged residents to support offenders during the process of being reintegrated into their communities. “It takes a village to raise a child. It equally takes a community to offer a second chance to an offender through contributing towards their successful reintegration into society,” he said.
Addressing an audience of over 150 community members, parolees, probationers and officials from different government departments, Deputy Minister Makwetla challenged parolees and probationers to avoid reoffending because by so doing, they were undermining the trust that communities have in the South African penal system.
The Ex-Offender Desk is located in a lighthouse, which was previously used as a tavern. However, the property owner had a change of heart and wanted to do something positive for her community.
Together with Derick Kapp, Head of Community Corrections at Humansdorp, they were able to bring the right people together for partnerships. The Ex-Offender Desk aims to answer the needs raised at the National Ex-Offender’s Conference held in July 2015 for community structures to help ex-offenders find their feet and plough back into the community.
The concept of the ex-offender desks is based on the premise that rehabilitated ex-offenders have a lot to offer communities, such as leading crime prevention and anti-substance abuse campaigns, and imparting skills they have obtained while incarcerated to unemployed youth. Parolees, under the auspices of Humansdorp Community Corrections, remodelled the old tavern into an enabling space where human development can thrive. They extended it with two more rooms. Other partners donated carpets and books.
The following services will be provided at the Ex-Offenders Desk:
• Food kitchen for the destitute.
• Clothes donations.
• Hosting wedding ceremonies.
• Personal and marriage counselling.
• Substance abuse programmes.
• Bible studies.
• Adult education and training classes.
The project is home-grown and gives communities a sense of ownership as church and school leaders, as well as the mayor’s office, have been on board since the start.
Patensie falls under the Kouga Municipality, an area where substance abuse is a major threat, thus necessitating anti-substance abuse programmes.
The Ex-Offenders’ Desk will help to facilitate these programmes, while offering other services, such as educational programmes, life skills as well as services provided by the Department of Social Development, South African Social Security Agency, Home Affairs, Department of Health and various NGOs.
Deputy Minister Makwetla also thanked Mrs Moss for closing the doors of her tavern and donating the premises to the community of Patensie and the Department of Correctional Services, to house the Offenders’ Desk.
The newly-renovated building was transformed by a group of parolees and probationers under the supervision of the Humansdorp Community Corrections office.
*Estelle Coetzee works for the Department of Correctional Services.