Since the launch of the “Reading for Redemption” programme, by Correctional Services Minister Sibusiso Ndebele on 17th September 2012, more than 68,237 books were donated to inmates.
Minister Ndebele says reading by inmates is at the centre of rehabilitation of offenders. “While a major component of the work of the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) is public security, we are equally mandated by our Constitution to rehabilitate offenders and ensure that they return to society as ideal, productive citizens. The nucleus of our rehabilitation programme constitutes reading, skilling and education.
As the last citadel of hope for society, we encourage offenders, and correctional officials, to read perpetually. We have made education compulsory for offenders because research informs us that 95% of them will return to society. An offender must leave a correctional centre with at least a skill in one hand and a certificate in the other hand. Economies of the 21st century are increasingly dependent on knowledge workers, and cultural industries are a huge component of such knowledge economies. DCS is working hard at ensuring that offenders are not left out of these global developments and economies of the future. It is for this reason that the department has launched the ‘Reading for Redemption’ programme, as a way of encouraging a culture of reading among offenders and society in general.
“This year, we have also been encouraged with the publishing of an anthology of poetry, entitled ‘Unchained’, written by offenders. Reading and Writing Clubs are being established in correctional facilities. We intend to do more to document the experiences of offenders and to allow their voices to be heard. As Corrections is a Societal Responsibility, we encourage authors to find it in their hearts to share their skills with inmates. Offenders are fellow human beings – they are our sisters and brothers, mothers and fathers; yes, they are also our children. Books, and reading, play a major role in character and identity formation.
It is writers of books, because of their unfailing fascination and interest in the human condition, who are always the vanguard of those ideas that allow us to imagine new creative possibilities in the midst of contemporary developments and challenges. We call on all members of society to help build our correctional centre libraries by donating books. It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness,” the Minister said.
On 7th March 2013, a copy of the novel “KWAKUNGEKE KUBE NJE” was handed to its author, Celimpilo Cele, who is an inmate at Qalakabusha Correctional facility. The novel won the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Literature Writing Competition, and was published by Oxford University Press.
Recently, Tshifhiwa Given Mukwevho from Makhado, who was imprisoned for 11 years and is on parole, pursued a creative writing course with UNISA and, on his release, published his short story collection. Mukwevho is currently a poet, and community journalist, who topped the inaugural Polokwane Literary Festival last year. He is negotiating a deal for his first novel.
Book donations may be directed to Ms. Zoliswa Dlula on 012-3072342/0733391522.