Kimberley -

A female Correctional Services official was suspended for allegedly having an intimate relationship with an offender from the Tswelelopele Correctional Centre in Kimberley, who has since been released on parole.

The alleged love affair is believed to have caught the attention of the department after a photograph of the official and the ex-offender was circulated and posted on social media.

While sufficient evidence could not be sourced to prove that an intimate relationship existed inside the prison walls, it was suspected that the romance was blossoming for some time, prior to the inmate’s release.

Witnesses who have seen the photograph related that the couple posed with their faces leaning against each other, where the photograph was distributed to other correctional officials via MMS.

A social worker was also charged for bringing in an unsolicited item into Tswelelopele Correctional Centre for an inmate.

The offender has, in the meantime, been relocated to another prison, pending the outcome of the investigation, where he is said to be co-operating with the authorities.

The provincial secretary of the Prisons and Civil Rights Union Provincial (Popcru), Boitumelo Pheleo, indicated that one of their members was placed on a precautionary suspension pending the investigation of an alleged offence of having an affair with an ex-offender.

He pointed out that the charges arose because of a WhatsApp profile photo of the official and the ex-offender.

“The matter was reported to the regional office and referred to the national office for investigation. However, they were not kissing or hugging and were fully clothed in the photograph.

“The ex-offender was released on parole and was not incarcerated. The matter is being investigated and therefore we cannot comment on the merits of the matter,” Pheleo said.

He stated that freedom of association remained a key right in terms of the Constitution of the country and that their member should be considered innocent until proven guilty.

“It is a grey area because the code of conduct does not have prohibit any official from associating or having a relationship with an ex-offender.

“The Department of Justice and Correctional Services will have to provide evidence that a sexual relationship existed while the offender was still incarcerated.”

The provincial manager of the Public Servants Association (PSA), Joseph Jacquire, added that their member should be considered innocent until proven guilty.

The Acting Deputy Regional Commissioner of Correctional Services, Magadima Masia, confirmed that one official was charged for bringing in an unauthorised item for an offender while another official was suspended pending an investigation outcome.

“The department views this matter in a very serious light. According to the code of conduct officials are not allowed to have intimate relations with offenders, nor may an official bring in any unauthorised item for an inmate. The investigation is at advanced stage to allow all areas to be covered.”

Masia said any decisions regarding disciplinary action would be subject to the outcome of the investigation.

“The official will be suspended with full salary until the investigation has been concluded.”

Masia added that the matters were reported to the head of the correctional centre.

“The location of the offender who was relocated cannot be divulged so as not to compromise the security of the offender.”

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