The Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Michael Masutha held the fourth correctional youth summit, in Khayelitsha, on Saturday June 24 where young people had a chance to raise their issues.
About 100 young people converged at Mew Way hall where Mr Masutha said Khayelitsha was among SAPS’s top five precincts for murder and mob justice.
He said the situation had deteriorated over the past three years, and according to the Institute for Security Studies, young people between the ages of 12 and 21 made up more than two thirds of both victims and perpetrators. He said 69 percent of those serving or awaiting trial at 243 correctional centres across the country, were 35 years old and younger.
“This is the group that had been identified as carriers of dangerous combination of poverty, inequality, unemployment and lack of critical skills for leading a productive life.
“It is because of these challenges that young people are lured into crime and dubious business ventures to perpetrate illegitimate business transactions,” he said.
Through the correctional youth summits, Mr Masutha said the state aimed to change the misfortune of the youth, particularly in township areas.
He said correctional centres offered skills development for unemployed young people. But they needed help from the business sector. “Over the past three years, the department has spent approximately R50 million to recapitalise its agricultural production sites, workshops, learning centres and factories.
“We have trained inmates in motor mechanics, electrical engineering, farming, food production, clothing and woodwork. If we can get more investment, we will be able to increase the internal capacity for channelling more offenders, most of whom are either illiterate or unskilled, to various programmes that would better their employment prospects,” he said.
Mr Masutha said they had started the youth summit in KwaZulu-Natal before going to Johannesburg and Free State and he felt that Khayelitsha needed to be one of the areas they visited urgently.
Lwando Tyokolo, 24, however, described the event as a political campaign to lure young people to vote for the ruling party and he lambasted the department for not allowing young people to run the event.
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He said the grinding levels of poverty had pushed many young people into crime – and even those with tertiary qualifications battled to find work.
“These youth summits are just a waste of money and time,” he said.
“They should use the money to do other things that would benefit the youth instead of preaching to us.”
Zach Modise, national commissioner for the Department of Justice and Correctional Services, said their job was to help get rid of crime.
He believes they need to double their efforts to deal with crime and that training young people who are either offenders or law-abiding citizens on technical and life skills would play a critical role in improving their employment prospects.
“Our mandate is not only to keep inmates in prison, but to rehabilitate them and change their ill behaviour.
“They also need to render these services to those who had not been arrested to ensure that they are not lured into criminal activities.
“We host these youth summits to inform the youth about the programmes that we have in place for them and they need to capitalise on these opportunities we are providing them,” he said.
A former inmate, Thozamani Stemele, told the minister that he had attended one of the woodwork programmes, but he was battling to find work because he had a criminal record and that frustrated him.
“I feel that the department has failed to accommodate us in the community even though we have changed our behaviours and acquired some skills with the hope of doing something positive about our lives,” Mr Stemele said.