Calls for Arthur Fraser's axing can't be decided on just yet - Lamola

Corruption-linked Arthur Fraser's position in government can only be decided after our engagements, says Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola.

FILE: Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola (L) and Commissioner of Correctional Services Arthur Fraser (R) arrive at the Goodwood Correctional Facility on 4 February 2020. Picture: Lauren Isaacs/Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG - Justice Minister Ronald Lamola told Eyewitness News that there were discussions about the calls for Correctional Services Commissioner Arthur Fraser's dismissal.

Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) made repeated calls for Fraser to be fired, citing his ignorance about issues in the department and failure to address overcrowding and under-staffing, among other issues. Fraser was also implicated in evidence given by State Security Agency officials at the state capture commission linking him to alleged corrupt dealings.

Lamola said that he could not say whether he was happy with Fraser's performance or not until these issues were concluded.

"There is a discussion, at this stage. It will depend on the outcomes of the engagements we are having with the commissioner, Popcru and organised labour in the department and ourselves," he said.

Lamola said that other issues up for discussion in this engagement forum with the unions and the commissioner included making correctional facilities self-sustainable. This could include inmates producing uniforms and food themselves.

"We are responding to their matter. We are engaging also with the commissioner to be positive in his response to some of the issues that they’ve raised where there could be agreement," he added.

Other claims made by Popcru against Fraser was that he oversaw the appointment of untrained warders and excluded those with experience.

Popcru said in January that Fraser was ignorant and out of touch with the deteriorating conditions under which correctional officers and centres operated. The union said that as overcrowding in prisons was rising, so were COVID-19 cases. Popcru said that between 6 and 16 January, infections within correctional centres increased to over 1,000.

Meanwhile, in May, a former State Security Agency operative - known as Dorothy - said that she personally handed a bag containing R1.5 million to then Minister David Mahlobo on Fraser's instruction when he was the agency's director-general.

Testifying at the state capture commission of inquiry, she said she had been instructed verbally by Fraser to receive the bag and pass it on to Mahlobo at his Cape Town residence. Dorothy said that she didn’t open the bag, but she believed what she was told by Fraser.

“Mr Fraser informed me that there was an amount of R1.5 million coming and that I should take it to Mr Mahlobo himself.”

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Additional reporting by Kaylynn Palm, Nthakoana Ngathane

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