By Aphiwe Ngowapi
On 29 April, the Department of Correctional Services had its quarterly Special Monitoring Action in Makhanda. The aim of the excursion was to visit and deal with offenders who had violated their parole terms and conditions once released from prison.
During the Special monitoring action, the South African Police Service (SAPS), Grahamstown Anti-Crime Neighbourhood Watch group, and various management teams from Makhanda, Middledrift, King Williams Town, and Fort Beaufort, went into Joza location to search for offenders.
Makhanda Head of Community Corrections, Mvuseleli Hashe, said, “Today’s operation was to trace absconders, people who disappeared a long time ago and under the parole system and correctional supervision.”
He added that during the excursion, they managed to visit fifteen houses. “Some are still missing, and some we still have leads to follow up on. There are two positive leads; one is deceased, but we still need to get proof of the death certificate, and one is confirmed to be arrested in Kirkwood, and his parole will be revoked tomorrow,” Hashe said about the offenders.
He also stated that not all criminals have identity documents, making it difficult and almost impossible to prove if a suspect is providing their correct name without fingerprint identification from SAP69, a record extracted from the SAPS Criminal Record System with details of the offence. You can tell if they have been using alias names.
Some of the most difficult-to-trace absconders are criminals arrested in the nineties before archives were digitalised. “[Criminal records] were not digitised, and [the offenders]don’t even have photos. So we depend on the cooperation of the community and families. However, some families are defensive and hide these criminals,” said Hashe.
With the rise in absconders, the Makhanda Correctional Services Department has prioritised conducting such monitoring on a fortnightly basis rather than quarterly. The community is encouraged to work with these law enforcement organisations to bring in offenders for a safer society.