Released prisoners not the problem, says DCS

Inmates at Pollsmoor.

The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) has said that claims made by a City of Cape Town Mayco member that the recent spike in gang-related shootings in Cape Town could be linked to last week’s release of over 400 Western Cape prisoners, including from Pollsmoor Prison in Tokai, on Covid-19 parole are untrue and irresponsible.

JP Smith, mayoral committee member for safety and security, made this statement after City law enforcement officers were deployed to Bonteheuwel on the Cape Flats last week Wednesday June 10 in response to several gang-related murders and ongoing shootings in the area.

Albert Fritz, the MEC for Community Safety, said that “renewed violence” had broken out since the shift to level 3 of lockdown and a spike
in alleged gang-related shootings.

Mr Smith said that the sudden gang violence spike had occurred across the city almost simultaneously and it was hard to understand how this could not have a common cause. He said it could be linked to interventions by an external gang trying to assert itself, which had been raised to his department. Mr Smith also said that the prisoners who were released early on Covid-19 parole could be trying to “settle old scores and reclaim their turf”.

The Department of Correctional Services in the Western Cape responded to Mr Smith’s allegations in a media statement on Thursday June 11 by Delekile Klaas, regional commissioner for DCS .

Mr Klaas said Mr Smith had made the comments without any facts to back up his allegations.

“We view his comments as irresponsible and devoid of the truth,” said Mr Klaas.

He said offenders who are released as part of the Covid-19 parole process are low-risk offenders who were incarcerated for non-violent crimes and as of June 10, only 477 offenders were released from the Western Cape correctional facilities. In total 19 000 prisoners will be released as part of the Covid-19 parole.

When the Bulletin asked Pollsmoor Prison for its statistics, spokesman Lewies Davids, said he had been instructed to give the media only the national and provincial statistics provided by the department.

The parole only qualifies for low-risk offenders and is being done in phases, with priority going to inmates over 60, those with underlying health problems, and offenders with infants.

“It is imperative to note that the offenders are still serving their remaining sentences and therefore monitored by the department.” said Mr Klaas.

Mr Smith said law enforcement resources had been spread thin as they had been divided between addressing land invasion issues, public violence and protests, and now widespread gang violence across the city.

Mr Klaas on the other hand said that he would like Mr Smith to play a constructive role in a fight against crime and gangsterism instead of “grand-standing”. “The department invites him to assist in the fight against crime by providing us with the information that he has of parolees released under Covid-19, who are involved in the gang shootings instead of making ill-informed statements,” said Mr Klaas.