Some awaiting trialists to be released

AWAITING-TRIAL suspects who were granted less than R1000 bail will be released from prisons.

Correctional Services Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said in Pretoria yesterday: "We have a huge responsibility taking care of them, they are occupying space that should be occupied by sentenced prisoners.

"If there were no awaiting-trial detainees there would be no overcrowding.

"The number of sentenced offenders can be adequately accommodated in our facilities as planned," Mapisa-Nqakula said.

She said the department would be forced to consider the matter of adequate facilities for inmates because of increased convictions and an increase in persons serving long sentences.

"We have already diverted thousands of offenders through a variety of our programmes, and we will continue to do this in line with our policies and in consultation with the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security cluster," she said.

The minister added that correctional services officials would receive a once-off R7500 payment today, saying the move fell in line with the agreement reached with labour on the roll-out of the Occupation Specific Dispensation.

In addition, the employees would now work 40 hours a week as compared to the previous 45-hour week. The move, she said, would save the department some money.

"We took the unions on board and we agreed that officials will no longer work for five days a week but seven days. We will be able to save money that officials claimed for overtime when they worked during weekends," she said.

Meanwhile, the minister said it would take the Public Service Commission only two weeks to investigate allegations of misconduct against suspended national commissioner Xoliswa Sibeko and chief financial officer Nandi Mareka.

The two are accused of renting houses that cost the taxpayer R35000 a month in the exclusive Woodhill Golf Estate, east of Pretoria.