Human rights for all, including ex-inmates - Mkhize

Friday, March 19, 2010

Pretoria - Correctional Services Deputy Minister, Hlengiwe Mkhize, on Thursday urged communities to accept offenders who had completed their sentences back into society, saying her department strives to strike a balance between victims and offenders' rights.

Speaking at the Empangeni Correctional Centre in KwaZulu-Natal at an event to mark the 50th anniversary of the Sharpeville massacre, Mkhize appealed to offenders to participate in rehabilitation programmes offered to them and also to use the opportunity while in prison to study and to learn as many skills as possible.

"As responsible members of society, if you do not accept ex-offenders back, and you continue stigmatising them as many are doing, you are leaving them with no other choice but to re-offend and come back in here again," she said.

She urged offenders to use mechanisms put in place by the department to protect their human rights.

"Human Rights Day should therefore serve to remind us that all South Africans have the right to dignity and to fair treatment," she said, adding that as the department, they are obliged to promote, defend and guarantee human rights for all inmates.

"As Correctional Services, we face the challenge of finding a balance between victims and offenders' rights. No matter what we do in correcting offending behaviour, our ultimate goal is to protect victims' interests.

"We all must realise that rights can only make a difference in our lives only if we all rise up and take a stand to defend them," she said.

On Sunday, South Africans will honour the victims and survivors of the Sharpeville massacre. That fateful day claimed 69 people and hundreds more were injured when they refused to carry pass documents.