Project Mustard Seed – 30,000 Prison Beds?

When I saw these minutes of the country I was absolutely shattered on so many levels. However, in no way does this take away from the core facts that we as a country need to build more facilities to ensure that justice is served, victims’ families heal, and offenders take responsibility for their actions. Those who are genuinely remorseful should have the chance to make amends once their sentences are fully served. This process simply cannot cut corners or be fast-tracked. 

Also, we cannot allow ourselves as a society to become inhumane – so what to do then? We are a country alive with opportunity, vision and innovation and are totally embracing the fourth industrial revolution (digitisation and technology).

To the Minister of Police: General Bheki Cele and spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo. How about South Africa leading the way to establishing the first International World Correctional Facility supported by Interpol*, the International Court of Justice* and the United Nations*, with the aim of taking into account possible additional revenue streams to support our correctional facility infrastructure? Further, it could, if international law allows, be a facility for other countries to use for maximum life sentence cases of criminals operating worldwide. 

At this stage, the International Court may entertain two types of cases: legal disputes between States (contentious cases) and requests for advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by United Nations organs and specialised agencies. The Court then discharges its duties as a full court but, at the request of the parties, it may also establish ad hoc chambers to examine specific cases.

Living up to our internationally recognised constitution promulgated by Nelson Mandela and the subsequent legacy of equality, justice, healing, forgiveness and integration, imagine being the elected country of the world to uphold this aspect of international justice for all! This may be a dream, but the point is we need to start the process of what we plan to do.

Crunching the numbers of our community teamwork with SAPS, the Hawks (DPCI) Crime Intelligence and National Prosecuting Authority, as a collective in Project Mustard Seed we have effected 2,157 ‘Priority 1’ arrests, almost all with life sentences, and over R579 million in recovered goods since March 2016; and with our dream and passion for change and answering Government’s call to community action, this means that, at a rate of 50 offenders per month, and taking into account 50% increase in productivity our organisation alone will need some 30,000 beds over the next 25 years before our first offender is due for parole. On one hand that sounds quite unreal, but on another it’s incredible to see our collaboration’s productivity rate, and this is just the tip of the iceberg because we are going to get better at what we do, as we have over the past 17 years. Sir, let’s keep going together. It’s a challenge that we must and will overcome. 

Project Mustard Seed – 2016 to date

Please share your thoughts, opinions and ideas. Taking into account the extremely high figure of 21,000 murders per year,  we must of course seek justice via the full might and punishment that the law prescribes. Forgiveness and healing in the face of the most horrific crimes and circumstances is something that takes a long time.

Brian Jones (SA7)
Brian’s Passionate Desk

Crime Spike Leads To SA Prisons Crisis  

The state of South Africa’s prisons is not good.

Department of Correctional Services spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo said there are 162,875 inmates in South African prisons with only 118,572 beds available. He said this high level of overcrowding (137%, with some sources quoting 150%) creates less humane conditions which results in a lower chance of rehabilitation of criminals. The number of inmates who slept on beds varied greatly, with 96% at one centre on beds, while in another, 66% of those surveyed did not have beds. As a result of this, the solution being offered is to send fewer criminals to prison and give them parole and lighter sentences in order to minimise the overcrowding problem.

A staggering figure of just over two million crimes were recorded in 2019 and these high crime levels are having a direct impact on the workplace as employees’ lives are being affected by increasing absenteeism rates resulting in a loss of man-hours. 

The South African Police Service (SAPS), however, takes a different view, arguing that prison sentences should be longer and that more lenient sentences will not reduce current crime levels.

Some ‘good news’ though, is that Standerton and Estcourt Correctional Centres were officially opened in April and May 2019 and the department is also awaiting the handover of the Tzaneen Correctional Centre which, combined with the refurbished Glencoe Correctional Centre, will provide an additional 1,101 beds. 

Nxumalo’s closing comment was: “Other progressive means will have to be explored in future should it happen that overcrowding has reached unprecedented levels. For now, the correctional system can hold but alternative means to direct incarceration could also be another area to be explored in future by the judiciary.”

1. Interpol, accessed 03.10.2019,
2. International Court of Justice: How the Court Works, accessed 03.10.2019,
3. United Nations, accessed 03.10.2019,
4. World Economic Forum: What is the fourth industrial revolution?, accessed 03.10.2019,
5. Staff writer: Crime is so bad in South Africa that jails are out of space, 22.09.2019,
6. Staff writer: Send criminals to jail for longer to fight crime – SAPS, 29.09.2019,
7. Government: SA’s prisons 37% overcrowded – Correctional Services, 29.09.2019,