PMB in radical plan to use convicted criminals to clean city streets
Durban - THERE has been mixed reactions to the Msunduzi Municipality’s executive committee’s (Exco) decision to utilise convicted prisoners to clean up the city.
Municipality spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha confirmed media reports that councillors approved an agreement last week between the municipality and the Department of Correctional Services for inmates to be responsible for street cleaning, grass cutting in parks and cemeteries, the painting of municipal owned buildings, including servicing of the municipality’s fleet. The matter is still to be approved at the city’s full council meeting.
The South African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) cautioned against the use of convicted criminals to deliver services.
The union said it was an attempt by the city to procure free and cheap labour and it was not in the interest of promoting or improving service delivery. The union was concerned that this agreement would also put residents’ lives at risk as this would present a greater chance for an inmate to escape.
Samwu provincial secretary Nokubonga Dinga said they were infuriated because the services were the core function of municipalities.
“It is people who are permanently and directly employed by municipalities who are supposed to be rendering these services. By looking at the state of decay that the city is currently in, one can but only conclude that the city has run out of ideas in running a proper government which is able to deliver services to its residents,” Dinga said.
“Despite the high levels of unemployment in the city and instead of playing a positive role of promoting local economic development and hiring people directly and permanently, the city has resorted to condemning people to slavery while in the process violating their human rights.”
Dinga warned that should the city continue with this agreement Samwu would be left with no option but to mobilise residents to demand permanent employment from the city.
DA Exco member and caucus leader Sibongiseni Majola said the city has an overall vacancy rate of 45 percent based on an organogram that was approved in 2013. He said the city was under administration and struggling financially.
“We know there are labour concerns. We were given an assurance by Correctional Services that only a certain category of prisoner will be used. Those who are close to completing lengthy sentences. We understand that they won’t escape and are not dangerous. Look at our city. It is regarded as the most filthiest city.”
Majola said it should be an interim measure and that officials must not turn a blind eye on the organogram and also filling in the critical and vacant posts.
“The inmates owe the community. They must provide some services as a contribution. They must gain the trust of the community.”
Correctional Services spokesperson Thulani Mdluli said the municipality was not hiring offenders. He said the department had a responsibility and was expected to be involved in social re-integration programmes as prescribed in the white paper on correctional services.
“These programmes are not limited to building houses for the destitute, cleaning schools and churches, etc. The Probation Services Amendment Act 35 of 2002 intends to provide the establishment and implementation of reintegration programmes aimed at combating crime; for the rendering of assistance to and treatment of people involved in crime; and for matters connected therewith,” Mdluli said.
He said the municipality and the department in Pietermaritzburg would engage in a memorandum of understanding to clean the city using offenders’ labour.
“It must be clear that DCS won't be taking over work rendered by municipal cleaners. A certain portion will be kept for inmates. The legal document can't be pre-emptive. As soon as everything is agreed upon, the public will be notified so that everyone must be responsible in the social reintegration to try reduce recidivism (the tendency of a convicted criminal to re-offend),” Mdluli said.