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Durban - The Department of Correctional Services believes criminal gangs operating from prisons could pose a threat to national security.
They were involved in human trafficking and the prostitution of women and girls.
Correctional Services Minister S’bu Ndebele said the gangs were part of the “menacing drug problem”, which President Jacob Zuma once referred to as the “scourge which is the new enemy of our democratic dispensation”.
In a response to a Parliamentary question from ANC MP Vuselelo Magagula, Ndebele said his department was working with intelligence agencies in a bid to end the notorious prison gangs’ reign of terror.
Magagula had asked for details on measures that had been put in place to curb the negative impact of the numbers gangs in the country’s prisons.
“The department is also participating in a task team headed by the National Intelligence Co-ordinating Committee, which is assessing the impact of gangsterism as a phenomenon and manifestation of organised crime, on security of the people of South Africa, and correctional centres more specifically,” added Ndebele.
The committee is responsible for the co-ordination and integration of all information provided by the country’s various intelligence agencies. It reports directly to the cabinet.
Ndebele said in addition to necessary policies and procedures, the department was making good progress “in developing a holistic response to the complex challenge of gangsterism as a security threat group in correctional centres”.
The minister warned it would be “short-sighted” to look at so-called prison numbers gangs without understanding how the development of community gangs affected prisons.
“In this regard, the department has developed a gang management strategy implementation tool, aimed at ensuring a uniform approach to gang management and related issues.
“There is clearly an evolution of these gangs and there is a need to appreciate how to holistically deal with root causes in correctional facilities, as well as in various communities where many residents now live in fear of gangs,” said Ndebele.
The department has also set up a panel of experts that would be responsible for, among others, consolidating the vast body of knowledge on gangs, which Ndebele believes is not “comprehensively recorded anywhere”.
Ndebele added: “This is going to be key in ensuring that new recruits are trained and prepared sufficiently to confront gangs in their work environment.”
He said quarterly “security work sessions” were being held in all regions.