Time for greener pastures

Notoriuos cash-in-transit heist kingpin Sakhumzi Mvoko and his dangerous gang of criminals who terrorised part of the Eastern Cape, and 14 awaiting-trial inmates who made a daring prison escape on Christmas day of 2014, gave Eastern Cape Correctional Services provincial commissioner Nkosinathi Breakfast sleepless nights.
But from tomorrow, worrying about guarding the 20000 prisoners at the province’s 45 prisons will be someone else’s responsibility.
This is because 60-year-old Breakfast, who gave 34 years of his life to the Department of Correctional Services, retires today.
In an interview yesterday, Breakfast said he would be retiring to his Stutterheim hometown to look after his 59 Nguni cattle, and be involved in community development.
Speaking about his highs and lows, Breakfast said the job had given him many sleepless nights as he had to ensure prisoners and warders were safe.
“The low points in my career, which gave me sleepless nights, have to do with the breaching of security in the prison with the Mvoko brothers and the mass escape in Fort Beaufort,” he said.
Sakhumzi Mvoko and Yandisa Bila were shot dead while attempting to escape during a Mthatha High Court appearance in 2014.
“When I took over the province [as the provincial commissioner in 2011], we had 15 to 20 escapes per year but I managed to curb that. “Breach of security is a very serious offence and it is something my team and I worked on very hard to tackle. We are proud to have decreased that number.”
Breakfast also prides himself for not ever being the subject of a maladministration or corruption investigation throughout his 34- year career.
After joining correctional services as a prison warder in 1984, Breakfast quickly worked his way up the ladder until he occupied the highest office in the Eastern Cape.
“You must remember during those years [the apartheid era], the only important thing was just to do enough to put food on the table. There were no aspirations to become a general because there were no such chances for blacks.”
In 1991 Breakfast – one of the founding members of the Police, Prisons and Civil Rights Union (Popcru), established in 1989 – was fired from the service along with more than 200 other Popcru members in the province.
This was after they led workers on a three-day strike in 1990.
While the union was locked in four-year negotiations with prison bosses, Breakfast studied to become a teacher.
Breakfast was then hired as a temporary teacher at Ndakana Primary School outside Stutterheim in 1995. In 1996, the state re-appointed all the dismissed prison warders on condition they did not work in the Eastern Cape.
Breakfast then resumed his duties at the George correctional facility in the Western Cape.
In 1998, the ban on those who had taken part in the 1990 strike was lifted and Breakfast started at the Mdantsane prison.
After one year, he returned to the Western Cape to head the recruitment office at the provincial headquarters in Goodwood.
In 2001, Breakfast was made deputy director of the George Correctional facility and in 2003 he was promoted to director
In 2006 he was appointed Eastern Cape deputy provincial commissioner before before taking the top post five years later. -malibongwed@dispatch.co.za..

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