Dear Mr President,
I hope this finds you in good health. On behalf of Department of Correctional Services Learnership Group 1 of 2018/2019 and Group 1 of 2019/2020, I am writing this open letter to you today to ask for your assistance in a matter that I feel is of utmost importance.
Mr President, in 2017 the department of correctional services advertised learnership posts. Thousands of people applied for the posts, as per usual some were shortlisted and some were not (I was not). However, those who were shortlisted and interviewed never went to college for training, people waited and waited and waited and they subsequently moved on. Some were employed by other departments and some by private companies. Apparently, the posts were frozen due to corruption and nepotism. In 2018 no posts were advertised, therefore, there was no intake.
In January 2019, a group of graduates that had applied in 2017 was called by the department for interviews. I was thrilled to be invited for interviews as I was unemployed at that time. We were interviewed and fortunately, we passed the interviews. People resigned from their previous jobs. After the interviews were conducted, the vetting process was done and the medical reports were submitted, a significant number (925) of learners was sent to two DCS training colleges for theoretical learning on the 18th of March 2019, and it was on this day that our contract commenced. Some were sent to Zonderwater and others were sent to Kroonstad.
Mr President, we stayed for approximately 5 months at the college and came back on 14th of August 2019. We continued with the practical training in our respective management areas for the remaining 7 months. Some time in October 2019, another group of learners (1139) was sent to the colleges. These learners came back from college around March 2020, buy then, we had already completed our 12 months training and we were put on contract for 12 months. We were now referred to as Auxiliary Support Officers. 2 days prior our appointment date, the 18th of March 2020. There was a memorandum from the Head Office instructing Regional Offices to employ us as Contract Workers, in the memo Advocate Mashibhini: CDC Human Resource said that we would be absorbed permanently as soon as we become competent. We have this signed memorandum in our possession as evidence.
We continued working while SASSETA was still moderating/evaluating our POEs (Portfolio of Evidence) and the other group was still busy with the practical training. In July 2020 SASSETA declared us (Group 1 of 2018/2019) competent, the department said nothing about our full-time employment and we did not say anything either as we were taught to comply and complain later. As we were and still are facing a pandemic, a number of infected officials in the centres escalated and we had to step up and work abnormal hours and shifts without any complaints, at times we would run out of PPEs but we continued working because we are a group of devoted Correctional Officers. Some of us were infected but that did not hinder our dedication to serve, we recovered and continued with our duties.
Time went by, around September 2020 a group of SANDF members came in. They were interviewed, at this point I did not know what was going on as I had not seen any posts advertised by the department on the website. After a few days they started training. Surprisingly after 3 weeks or so, without any proper training they were permanently employed and they became our seniors. They were given uniform, insignias and everything that you can think of. The other group (Group 1 of 2019/2020) completed training in December 2020 and they were told to go back home, they have been waiting to be phoned back since then. We continued working until the 17th of March 2021. We did not receive any contract termination letters, any communication whatsoever. The department kept quiet. After a week, in other Management Areas my peers were instructed to bring back the uniform and some of those who resided inside the premises were evicted from those rooms. We tried to reach out to the department but no one could hear our cry and we sought assistance from influential people and our story started to make headlines. Unfortunately our matter has not been resolved yet and the Spokesperson of the department, Mr Singabakho Nxumalo has been releasing fallacious statements, misleading the public. On Safm he said we were still busy with our training when they employed SANDF member, and they could not wait for us to finish as there was a shortage of staff. That is a lie and the truth is, we had already been declared competent by SASSETA when they brought soldiers in. According to the Spokesperson, the department is not obligated to absorb us after the training.
However, GPSSBC Resolution 2 of 2009 : paragraph 12.2 articulates that current ring-fenced Student Correctional Officials shall retain their conditions of employment and upon completion of the training programme, shall translate to the first notch of the OSD for full-time employment. No recognition of experience shall apply to these employees. And this document supersedes the contract. I firmly believe that there are vacant posts and money is not an issue as the department has managed to re-employ people who had resigned from the department on their own accord.
Mr President, we are suffering financially, emotionally and psychologically and no one seems to care in the Department. We are from poverty-stricken areas, we have been trying by all means necessary to escape poverty, earn an honest living and enhance our well-being. This issue does not only affect us, our families too are affected. We were breadwinners, we used to take care of them and know we can’t even afford a loaf of bread. Some officials bought cars and other important stuff and now all of those things will soon be repossessed, children will be kicked out of school and policies will lapse as we are now unemployed.
In light of the above, I humbly ask for your intervention. Kindly help us get reinstated before we sink into depression and die of hunger.
A qualified and fully trained unemployed Correctional Officer