Address on the Site Tour of the New Kokstad Prison and Launch of the Skills Development Programme – 1999/04/17

17 April 1999

Ceremonial Greetings

It is said “the greatest prison is not the one with the most imposing walls but that which locks in our identity, potential for growth and a sense of self- worth.” In a sense this expression captures the essence of the challenges that we face in South Africa. Five years ago we successfully emerged from the imposing walls of Apartheid. The full potential of our country and all its people had been locked in by centuries of colonialism and apartheid. However, despite the sustained onslought of Apartheid social engineering we have emerged with an invigorated identity to claim our rightful place as proud citizens of Africa and the globe.

Together, we have come out of the prison of despair into the radiant light of hope. Together, we can assure our youth of a brighter future unfettered by the obstacles of the past. Together, we have committed ourselves to build a new destiny for all our people.

I visited the new Kokstad Prison facility this morning and could not help but reflect on the irony of the potential of a prison to unleash such an abundance of opportunities for so many sectors of our society. I am told that the Kokstad facility is the largest and first of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.

What is more impressive is the enormous potential that this facility has unleashed in Kokstad and its surroundings. This R350 million investment into the local economy re-affirms the commitment of our government to deliver critical infrastructure and to meet your needs.

Our experience over the past five years has taught us that it is decisive interventions at the local level such as this that is required to accelerate the pace of change in our country. In the construction phase of the Kokstad prison facility alone, the Department of Public Works is creating more than 7500 jobs and more opportunities will be provided in the post-construction phase. This is particularly important for developing a thriving SMME sector and essential to sustainable and permanent employment creation. In the medium term development of the SMME sector will probably be the largest job creator in the economy. The Department of Public Works has during the last four years developed its Affirmative Procurement Policy that fundamentally contributes to the development of the SMME sector.

The Kokstad Prison project strengthens this position by making it a prerequisite of the contractor to engage the SMME sector in the delivery of the project. This will encourage the establishment of national SMME support organisations in Kokstad whose objectives would be to remain after the prison is built to take advantage of the opportunities presented.

An essential component of the project is the development of the local skill base in Kokstad. The opportunities of the prison have markedly improved the access to the labour markets of those employed on the project.

The construction of this Correctional facility by the Department of Public Works alongwith others recently announced as part of the Asset Procurement and Operating Partnerships(APOPS) initiative in Bloemfontein and Louis Trichardt, re-iterate our commitment to strengthen the criminal justice system in South Africa and relieve overcrowding in our prisons. More importantly it re-inforces our other initiatives to root out crime and corruption; strengthen the moral fabric of our society and rekindle the RDP of the soul .

We have repeatedly demonstrated our commitment to fulfil the task you entrusted to us in 1994 to create a climate of peace and dignity to ensure that all South Africans enjoy a better quality of life. The government that you elected has brought into being a new constitutional order. It has radically changed the legislative framework and dedicated vital resources, despite heavy constraints, to develop the necessary social and physical infrastructure to ensure that in partnership with you the foundations are laid to speed up the journey to a better life.

This development also provides the necessary framework for launching of a Local Economic Development initiative. The town of Kokstad is indeed fortunate for the location of what is the largest Super-Maximum Prison in the Southern Hemisphere to be such a launching pad for changing the lives of the people of Kokstad. This will have a profound impact with tremendous downstream potential for secondary industry goods and services.

In order to locate the Kokstad Prison within both the broad context of our socio-economic objectives and Local Economic Development, it is important to examine the opportunities that a facility such as this exposes to the local people.

Like all vibrant and growing towns, Kokstad is dependent on the sustainable well being of its economy. The local economy is the engine of future growth and development but growth can only take place within a drive to introduce economic infrastructure and opportunity.

Moreover, the Kokstad prison was well thought out in its location bordering the Provinces of Kwa-Zulu Natal and the Eastern Cape, in bridging the economies of both provinces. In essence it provides a development corridor between two of our most poverty-stricken provinces.

The single most significant long-term contribution of the prison is its location within the government’s criminal justice system reform process and the efficient management of convicted persons under maximum-security conditions. This will fundamentally address what could be termed a societal “burning Issue”.

As we approaching the millennium, the Kokstad prison project provides us with a model of how to make interventions at the local level that will generate:

  • A competitive fast growing economy which creates sufficient jobs for work seekers
  • A redistribution of income and economic opportunities in favour of the poor and historically disadvantaged
  • A society that has access to the basic services such as sound health care, education and basic infrastructure
  • An environment in which homes are secure and places of work are productive.

In contributing to these objectives, government’s targeted procurement policies championed by the Department of Public Works is translating into substantial redistribution of wealth and opportunities to the poor and historically disadvantaged. In this province of Kwazulu Natal alone contracts to the value of R639 million have been directed towards targeted procurement. Nationally, our government has directed targeted procurement on construction projects to the value of R2,1 billion. For the first time in the history of this country, we can say with confidence that opportunity in South Africa belongs to all who live in it.

We remain committed to further intensifying our gains in this area. Though government has succeeded in growing the stake of previously disadvantaged individuals(PDIs) and affirmable business entities(ABEs) there remains a need to build Black contractor capacity in South Africa.

The Department of Public Work’s Strategic Projects Initiative(SPI) was therefore conceived to address this issue. The first project identified to pilot the initiative is the Kokstad prison project, utilising the Medium Security and the Housing Projects.

In this project the primary focus of the Human Resources Development programme is the engagement of the local youth in construction projects. The training initiative funded by the Departments Emerging Contractor Development Programme (ECDP) is a clear demonstration that government is committed to the development of the local youth from Kokstad.

The Youth Skills Development Programme that we are launching here today is thus a significant step in taking forward our policies on youth development and skills transfer. The training of these individuals is linked to the job opportunities that the project presents. I am told that nearly 300 youth will be trained in various construction skills. I believe that we will be presenting certificates to some of them here today. I want to commend the departments of Labour and Public Works, the contractors, the local community and youth structures for their outstanding efforts and and affirming the critical value of co-operative governance in the development process.

We are confident that this, alongwith all other government programmes and initiatives, will lay a solid foundation for a better quality of life for all our people. I want to re-iterate that South Africans from all walks of life, government, the private sector, business, community based organisations and the unions must all work together in strengthening national partnerships to build a winning nation. Our human resource base is our most valuable asset. It therefore remains our collective responsibility to investment in the future of our nation. Together, we can fight unemployment, crime and poverty. Together, we can accelerate the pace of change. Together, we can build a better life for all.


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