Address by the Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, the Hon JH Jeffery, MP, at a visit to the Westville Youth Correctional Centre, Kwazulu-Natal, 15 June 2018
The Provincial Commissioner of Correctional Services
The Acting Regional Head of the DoJCD
Representatives from the Department of Correctional Services
Representatives from the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services
Members of the Child Justice Forum
Good morning and thank you for the invitation.
Earlier this morning I visited the Durban Magistrates’ Court as part of a Youth Day event.
As you know every year, in June, we celebrate Youth Month.
Why do we value our youth? And why do we celebrate Youth Month?
Youth Month pays tribute to the school learners who lost their lives during the 16 June 1976 uprising in Soweto.
On 16 June 1976, more than 15 000 students gathered at Orlando West Secondary School with the intention of participating in a peaceful march to the nearby Orlando Stadium.
The demonstration had been planned in protest against the use of Afrikaans as the medium of instruction at schools.
However, the police and armed forces responded to the protest violently and many were killed and wounded.
The shootings in Soweto sparked a massive uprising that soon spread to more than 100 urban and rural areas throughout South Africa.
This tragedy became a rallying point that inspired a nation and a people to rise up against the brutal apartheid system.
The youth of 1976 were protesting for better education, for the rights of children and young people to learn and for freedom.
Education is extremely important – and that is why we are so proud of the achievements of those within this institution.
I am told that Samkelo Mpofana, who is from Usethubeni Youth Centre, here at Durban Westville Correctional Centre, achieved five distinctions in IsiZulu, English, Life Orientation, History and Tourism in last year’s National Senior Certificate results.
And Senzo Fundzo and Sicelo Chili, both also from here, were closely behind him with three distinctions each.
They are proof that with dedication, with courage and with perseverance one is able to achieve one’s dreams.
And they are also proof that every person can turn their life around.
I’m informed that at this centre, last year, 28 young people sat for the matric exam and all 28 passed.
At the Ekuseni Correctional facility, 20 sat for the exam and 17 passed.
I want to commend Samkelo, Senzo and Sicelo and all the others who have made us proud with their achievements and also a word of appreciation and encouragement to those who assisted them in their achievements.
For a third consecutive year, the Department of Correctional Services has surpassed the 70% national average pass threshold, and that the 76.7% matric pass rate for the 2017 academic year, was an improvement of 4.6% from the previous year.
Not only has there been an increased the number of matriculants, but the quality of results has been increasing over the years.
The Department of Correctional Services also has a Social Integration Policy that supports ex-offenders who have qualifications to find jobs.
As we celebrate Youth Month, I want to wish you all the best for the future.
Our courts are making use of community-based sentences to support the reintegration and rehabilitation of children and young people in conflict with the law, and both the Department of Social Development and the Department of Correctional Services have a variety of programmes aimed at rehabilitating children and young people in custody to ensure that upon release they can contribute to society.
It is never too late to say “that was yesterday, I am leaving it behind”.
Every day brings with it a new beginning and a new opportunity.
One day, when you walk from here, you have the ability to go back into your communities and make a positive contribution to society and to our country.
Take the opportunities to become skilled and further your education so that one day you can be proud, respected and productive citizens.
Some of you may know that 2018 marks 100 years since the birth of two of our national icons – Nelson Mandela and Mama Albertina Sisulu - who dedicated their lives to the struggle for freedom and contributed immensely to the birth of a new South African nation.
And they too faced challenges in their lives: MaSisulu was the 2nd of five children and the eldest daughter. So when her mother passed away, when MaSisulu was only 11 years old, she had to help to raise her younger siblings.
It is written that she was a top student but she graduated two years late because of caring for her siblings.
Graduating late disqualified her from competing for a four-year scholarship and it appeared her education was over.
But she did not give up.
Her teachers wrote a letter of objection and later she got the scholarship at Mariazell College, where she again became a top student.
Both Madiba and MaSisulu were passionate about the youth, about education and about human rights. President Mandela once said that “whenever I am with energetic young people, I feel like a recharged battery.”
Both Madiba and MaSisulu would want you to succeed.
They would want you to take every opportunity available to you to learn, to read, to empower yourselves.
They would want you to contribute to our country in a positive way.
I want to leave you with the words of President Mandela, when he said on Youth Day in 1996, 22 years ago:
“We owe it to the youth who perished in struggle on June 16 and in the many years that followed, to ensure that we achieve what we have set for ourselves; to build a better life for all South Africans.”
Each and every one of you have the ability to build a better life for all in our country.Thank you.