Remorse key to victim-offender dialogue - Ndebele

Monday, September 16, 2013

Pretoria - Correctional Services Minister Sibusiso Ndebele says regret, remorse, reconciliation, rehabilitation and reintegration are key to the success of the Victim-Offender Dialogue programme.

Addressing a victim-offender dialogue between the survivors, victims’ families and one of the perpetrators of the 1996 Christmas Eve Worcester bomb attack in the Western Cape, on Monday, Ndebele said: “On Christmas Eve in 1996, here in Worcester, an unthinkable, violent crime left four people, including three innocent children, dead.”

Sixty seven (67) people were injured when bombs ripped through the Shoprite shopping centre packed with last-minute shoppers.

The first bomb went off around 13:20pm and minutes later, a second bomb went off.

“Shortly afterwards, the youngest bomber said that he was disappointed at the low death toll and would like an opportunity to do more damage,” Ndebele said.

More than 16 years later, Stefaans Coetzee, who had just turned 17 at the time, is a changed man.

Ndebele congratulated the survivors of the Worcester bombing for embarking on a journey to meet Coetzee.

“Apartheid had intended to strip away every ounce of dignity and humanity of black people, but did not succeed.

“Our freedom was not free. We must never lose sight of the sacrifices of those who came before us, and we must jealously guard our freedom and democracy in South Africa.

“We are building a country that values human life and dignity. It is for this reason that we reject the view of ‘an eye for an eye,” he said.

In November 2012, the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) introduced the Victim-Offender Dialogue (VOD) programme.

The aim of the programme is to strengthen the current rehabilitation and reintegration programmes of DCS by placing the victim at the centre of the corrections process.

This process, according to the department, is premised on the principles of restorative justice, as outlined in the White Paper on Corrections.

It requires DCS to encourage restoration between victims, offenders and communities in consultation or partnership with stakeholders. 

“As DCS, we are thankful for social partners such as the Worcester Hope and Reconciliation Process (WHARP) and Khulumani Support Group (KSG),” Ndebele said.

“For years, these partners have been supporting survivors of the bomb explosion. We are also grateful to local businesses, the religious community as well as a host of other individuals and organised formations which have been supporting the Worcester peace and reconciliation efforts,” he said.

Ndebele said that the Victim-Offender Dialogue is a voluntary process, where the offender and victim are able to talk about the effects of the crime and how, why, when and by whom the crime was committed.

“Our Victim-Offender Dialogue programme is geared towards ensuring that victims of crime… are not erased from public memory once the courts sentence the offender. We recognise that your loss is irreplaceable, and that the healing of your wounds and pain did not vanish into thin air once guilt is established by the courts,” he said. –

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