Cape Town - More than 37 000 cellphones were confiscated in prisons throughout the country in the 2022/23 financial year.
But only 24 prison officials were subjected to disciplinary proceedings for their role in smuggling in the cellphones during the same period.
This was revealed by Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola in responding to parliamentary questions from EFF MP Mathapelo Siwisa.
Siwisa wrote to Lamola, noting the high number of inmates who have access to cell-phones inside correctional facilities.
She enquired about the total number of cellphones confiscated in the 2022/23 financial year, and measures in place to ensure that access to cellphones does not recur.
Siwisa also wanted to know about the total number of prison warders implicated in such cases, and the actions taken against those prison warders.
In his written reply, Lamola said a total of 37 243 cellphones were confiscated in the last financial year.
Gauteng had the highest number of cellphones confiscated at 10 238; KwaZulu-Natal 7 628; Western Cape 6 161; the Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West region 5 167; Eastern Cape 4 501; and the Free State and Northern Cape region 3 548.
The minister also said a total of 24 correctional services officials were found to have been involved in smuggling the cellphones into the facilities.
At least nine were implicated in KwaZulu-Natal; seven in Gauteng; four in the Western Cape; three in the Free State and Northern Cape region; and one in the Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West region.
Lamola said eight officials had been dismissed after undergoing disciplinary hearings, with one of the officials appealing the sanction.
Four officials received written warnings; another received a verbal warning; one was slapped with a final written warning; while three were suspended and one resigned.
Two officials are facing disciplinary processes; one case is under investigation; and another case was withdrawn.
Lamola said various measures have been in place to ensure that access to cellphones by prisoners did not recur: these included surprise searches conducted on a daily bases at correctional facilities, and access control points.
Trained sniffer dogs are also utilised for cellphone detection, he said.
“Searching is conducted on vehicles, personnel, visitors and service providers. It is conducted as per section 27 of CSA 111 of 1998 and Security Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).”
Lamola also said the Department of Correctional Services has implemented policies on “a bagless society” and “a cellphone-free society”.
“These policies reflect that officials are not permitted to enter facilities with bags or packets, other than their personal items and meals. Females use clear plastic bags,” he said.
The minister added that regions have embarked on security awareness sessions on the prevention of smuggling of contraband.
“Guidelines are in place on how confiscated cellphones must be disposed of to prevent recirculation,” he said.
Lamola also said disciplinary measures and swift consequence management were applied to all officials, visitors, service providers, and inmates involved in any form of smuggling of contraband including cellular devices.