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Mini budget – Prisons are a ‘college for criminals’, say activists in call to redirect funds

Mini budget – Prisons are a ‘college for criminals’, say activists in call to redirect funds
A small group of protesters outside Parliament before the delivery of the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement on Wednesday. Organisations from across Cape Town gathered to protest against the high cost of living, lack of service delivery, gender-based violence and unemployment. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

Activists picketing outside Parliament were hoping the finance minister would consider cutting the correctional services budget and introduce basic income grants for unemployed people.

Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana should consider cutting the correctional services budget and rather fund victims of crime, according to Lumkile Sizile from Amadoda Aqotho, an organisation for men against abuse. 

Sizile was speaking outside Parliament during the minister’s Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) on Wednesday. 

Various civil organisations and neighbourhood watches from the Cape Flats had gathered to try to persuade Godongwana to heed their pleas. 

Protesters outside Parliament on Wednesday. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

“Prisoners receive around two meals a day and victims are left to fend for themselves,” said Sizile. “The minister should cut the correctional services budget and fund programmes that assist victims. Prison has become a college for criminals now – they go inside and instead of being rehabilitated they learn new tricks on how to commit crime.” 

Sizile also called for prisoners to be separated according to the crimes committed. “You cannot have a thief in the same cell as a murderer, that is a recipe for disaster and it makes people fall deeper into crime [instead of] getting rehabilitated.”

South Africa is battling a high unemployment rate, increased poverty and an extremely high cost of living. The Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress grant is the only income lifeline for more than 10 million unemployed people. 

Groups protested against lack of service delivery, among other things. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

A protester outside Parliament on Wednesday. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

The country’s tax revenue – the largest single contributor to fiscal revenues – has grown more than expected in the 2022/23 fiscal year. This year’s budget speech was tabled shortly before the Russian invasion of Ukraine which has presented challenges to global economies. 

The reintroduction of rolling blackouts is affecting the economy and investment outlook, alongside the continued rise in public debt. 

Organisations from across Cape Town gathered at Parliament. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

Various civil organisations and neighbourhood watches from the Cape Flats had gathered to try to persuade Godongwana to heed their pleas. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

‘There will be chaos’

Madoda Cuphe, an organiser from the Anti Austerity Forum, said citizens are losing even more hope as there seem to be no concrete plans to revive the economy and fix Eskom. 

“Young people are growing up with no promising future; the only future they see is in crime. That is dangerous, you cannot have so many people who are hungry, and hopeless. To make things worse, we live in filthy communities and health facilities are crumbling. People are getting angry and one day they will wake up, take their kitchen knives and there will be chaos in this country.” 


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However, Godongwana could prevent the chaos which former president Thabo Mbeki had referred to as our own Arab Spring

“To stop this chaos, the minister must deal with unemployment and give people a basic income grant of R1,500. Solve the public transport, education and health challenges. If that is done, the economy will grow.” 

The Black Sash appealed to the minister to comply with the government’s constitutional obligations regarding comprehensive social security. DM

 

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