Christmas came earlier for 54 disabled children, women and men when the Department of Correctional Services donated state-of-the-art wheelchairs during the department’s community outreach drive in the Southern Cape this week.
The Minister of Correctional Services, Dr Sibusiso Ndebele instructed the department to hand over the wheelchairs over to the evidently proud recipients, Western Cape Regional Commissioner Delekile Klaas said the good gesture was partly in honour of former President Nelson Mandela, who dedicated his entire life to the struggle of the maginalised, disabled and the poor in society.
Most of the beneficiaries could not attend the ceremony as they are bed-ridden and, instead, sent a family member to receive the wheelchair on their behalf. Commissioner Klaas said Minister Ndebele has also instructed the department as part of its rehabilitation programmes, to train offenders in manufacturing of the wheelchairs, which would then be donated to initiatives of good cause as a way of ploughing back into society.
Commissioner Klaas said the wheelchairs, donated through a joint initiative with Hillsong Africa Foundation, would be handed to disabled people from the communities of Knysna, Oudtshoorn, Plettenberg Bay, George and Mossel Bay. He was addressing more than 1000 members of the community, including various denominations, at the Beaufort West Show grounds.
Southern Cape Area Commissioner, Ms Ndileka Booi, reminded the community that “rehabilitation is a societal responsibility. We need to stop stigmatising rehabilitated ex-offenders when they are released into their communities.”
“We also appeal to the private sector to provide employment to all offenders upon their release in order to break the cycle of repeat crime. In most instances we have realised that these ex-offenders often choose to return to .incarceration simply because their communities refuse to accept and forgive them for previous transgressions,” Ms Booi said.
Commissioner Klaas appealed to the community to work with the Department of Correctional Services in the fight against crime. He reminded the audience that it was very important for the ex-offenders to be successfully reintegrated into their communities as they have originally come from these communities.
He took the moment to commend the men and women in brown, adding that very few people had the characteristics requisite for success in the field of corrections. Correctional Officials are trained and immersed in an environment that demands them to remain alert and conscious of any potential dangers as they often found themselves among people who had been declared a danger to society.