By Koketso Mamabolo


“If you had said to my mother and father, farm workers, in a Bantustan in the Eastern Transvaal as it was called then, that in just over two decades, one of their children would be serving a democratic government as a minister, they would have probably not believed that,” said Honourable Ronald Lamola in his virtual address commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Constitution. The young minister has left a fiery trail which is only just beginning.

An important part of leadership is knowing when to lean on young people to add a fresh perspective to the table of experience, which is what President Cyril Ramaphosa did when he appointed Hon. Ronald Ozzy Lamola as the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services in May of 2019. Born in Bushbuckridge, the 38 year-old lawyer has settled into the role like a seasoned professional.


One could say Minister Ronald Lamola was groomed to lead the Justice and Correctional Services Ministry. After graduating from Mchaka High School at the start of the new millennium, Hon. Lamola pursued legal studies, obtaining his LLB from the University of Venda in 2005. The Minister did not rest on his laurels, furthering his studies through UNISA and at the University of Pretoria with post-graduate certificates in areas such as banking law and telecommunications policy, regulation and management.

Hon. Lamola has completed not one, but two Masters degrees. The first was in corporate law, completed over two years at the University of Pretoria. He completed the second one in just a single year, in extractive law, also from the University of Pretoria. Hon. Lamola was admitted as an attorney at the High Court of South Africa in 2007.

Honourable Lamola’s career began as a professional assistant at TMN Kgomo and Associates, straight out of University. At TMN Kgomo and Associates he provided the Govern Mbeki Municipality with legal advice, practising civil litigation, labour law, commercial litigation and drafting contracts. Hon. Lamola’s work with the municipality continued when was appointed the Transversal Unit Manager from March to June of 2009. He moved onto Mpumalanga’s Department of Culture, Sport and Recreation where he spent two years as a Director in the office of the MEC.

Minister Lamola’s service to the Mpumalanga Province continued for most of 2011 in the office of the Premier as the Acting Spokesperson. After a short transition Hon. Lamola pivoted back to the legal profession, starting his own law firm, Ndobela and Lamola Incorporated Attorneys in March of 2012.


The Ministry which Hon. Lamola leads became what it is today in 2014, when the Department of Justice and the Department of Correctional Services were merged at the ministerial level after they were separated in the late 90s. 

The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DoJ&CD) is responsible for setting up the courts and offering the necessary support for the independent judicial officers who are appointed. The Department conducts criminal proceedings, providing legal aid, working on reforming laws, crafting rules and advising government departments on legal matters. Some of the bodies which fall under this department are the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) which is responsible for the seizing of assets on behalf of the state.

The GCIS’ 2019/2020 Yearbook on the Ministry explains: “The National Development Plan (NDP) sets out a vision for building and maintaining safe communities in South Africa through, among other things, strengthening the criminal justice.”

“The work at the DoJ&CD is directly aligned with this priority in that a well-functioning criminal justice system provides relief to victims of crime, protects vulnerable groups and swiftly acts against perpetrators of corrupt activities.”

The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) is responsible for housing offenders and rehabilitating them before they are released back into society. “The DCS aims to ensure that conditions of detention are safe and secure, and to maintain the human dignity of inmates, the department’s personnel and members of the public.”

The DCS manages correctional facilities which includes the day-to-day operations and security where inmates, convicted or in remand, are held. They take a needs-based approach to rehabilitation which involves “… correctional and skills development programmes, and psychological, social and spiritual care services.”

Speaking to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services in November 2021, Minister Lamola highlighted the improvements the Ministry has made since his appointment in 2019. “Despite this harsh terrain and reality, these departments have not folded their arms, they have been innovative where possible to ensure that which can be done, is fulfilled,” said the Minister.

Under Hon. Lamola’s leadership, the DCS reported an unqualified audit for the first time in four years. “The improvement is due to the effective implementation of processes to ensure that irregular expenditure is identified and disclosed without material errors,” wrote the Minister in the DCS’ 2020/2021 annual report. “The audit outcome marks a significant achievement for the Department despite the uncertainties brought about by the [COVID-19] pandemic.” 

The importance of proper procedures and the attention to detail is not surprising coming from a trained lawyer who understands rules and regulations. When he was called before the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services, the Minister announced three Justice Department reforms which are geared towards further improving performance. Firstly, efforts will be made to modernise services at the first point of contact with people living in the country. The second will be creating an effective state litigation system. The third relates to the recruitment and training of highly-skilled personnel within the departments.

“On the balance… we can see that [the] rapid decline that we found has been arrested. Whilst there is still a lot of work to be done. We have said to the department [that] the upward trend must continue. The department’s performance was previously standing at 43%, having implemented some of the interventions, the Department achieved a performance of 67% in the last financial year.”

Honourable Ronald Lamola is only 38 years-old, and with only two full years in office his appointment as the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services could be just the start of even more unbelievable things to come.




Department of Justice

Department of Correctional Service

Parliament of South Africa

University of Venda


Suid-Kaap Forum