Phoenix Zululand:


Restorative Justice Programme

Welcome to Phoenix Zululand

January 15th, 2012

Phoenix Zululand conceives and runs continual projects in the ten prisons of Zululand, which is an informally and traditionally defined region on the east coast of South African in the Province of KwaZulu-Natal. The organization’s headquarters are in a small town called Eshowe in central Zululand. Phoenix is an independent organization of civil society. It has a close working relationship with the Department of Correctional Service (DCS) of the South African government.


Please visit Phoenix regularly to follow updates.


The right-hand side of this page can be used to go directly to aspects of the Programme you would like to visit.


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All photographs on this web site are © Phoenix Zululand. Photographs are taken in support of our general objectives to uphold the dignity and celebrate the humanity of people with whom we have contact.


With good wishes


Jane Argall (Director) and the Phoenix Team

Family Conference

January 26th, 2016

There will be a Family Conference on Wednesday 27th January in the Women’s Section, Eshowe.

Family Conferences are essentially public occasions

August 15th, 2013

Because Family Conferences involve many people from disparate families, most often not known to each other before coming together on these occasions, they have amazing poignancy, and often elicit bewildering emotions. They give the participants experience in talking to others, especially strangers, about the obloquy they have felt in having one of their members in prison.

A large Family Conference

A large Family Conference

Rising from the ashes: practical explorations in rehabilitation and social re-integration in the prisons of Zululand

August 15th, 2013

OSF paper


Please e-mail Nonceba to request a copy of this paper.

Lucia Trimbur from CUNY visited Phoenix in August 2013

August 15th, 2013
Lucia visited a number of sites in and around Eshowe including the Dhlinza Forest Boardwalk

Lucia visited a number of sites in and around Eshowe including the Dhlinza Forest Boardwalk

Lucia participated fully in an extraordinarily intense programme during a visit to a Zululand prison. August 2013

Lucia participated fully in an extraordinarily intense programme during a visit to a Zululand prison. August 2013

A frequently experienced phenomenon in Phoenix work is the enduring and pervasive quality of the trust that Phoenix facilitators are able to engender; this makes it possible for visitors to join prison groups in a very transitory way — provided that they are with the Phoenix team — and yet be able to to rely of the trust that has been hitherto established. This is possibly testimony to one of the most important educational and developmental processes we see happening in prisons. It is never easy for prisoners to trust others, let alone comparative strangers. The social conditions from which most come, and their experience of the criminal justice system, makes their vulnerability an important factor with which we have to work as a living reality.



Next Board Meeting

August 14th, 2013

The next Meeting of the Board of Management is in early February 2014, the Board Room at the Diocesan Office, Eshowe.


Please see the attached minutes of the previous meeting.




Board Minutes 10 May 2013

Nonceba and some members of her team attend a Colloqium at the Constitutional Court

May 21st, 2012

Sasha Gear, Programme Director of Just Detention, and Nonceba Lushaba in conversation at the Colloquium


The Wits Justice Project hosted a colloquium entitled “It Could be You” on 17th May at the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg. The presenters all reflected on the experience of imprisonment from their different perspectives.

Ancillary to the Colloquium is a superb exhibition of photographs (continuing) of ex-prisoners taken by David Goldblatt. The photographs were all taken at the scenes of the deeds that got them jailed and each is accompanied by a brief text describing the event to which the photograph refers. Behind Sasha and Nonceba in the picture above is a photograph of Bongani Sithole, for some years a musician Facilitator with Phoenix.

David Goldblatt in a presentation at the Colloquium described his project and what it meant to him.



Nonceba and Ida once again host a group of SIT students

March 27th, 2012

 More photos from the progamme in the prison will be posted soon. Please come back.

A group of SIT students listen to a presentation by Nonceba the day before their programme in the Eshowe prison started.

Ida Gartrell writes as follows:


Twenty-six students from the School for International Training, and thirteen inmates from the Eshowe Women’s Correctional Centre attended a two day workshop, run by Ida Gartrell, on the 14/15th March 2012.


Using Drama, Movement, Breath, Voice and Discussion participants were taken through various processes which focussed on Identity, Stories, Choices, Leading and Following, Observation and Relationships. Finally through “Image Work” (Augusto Boal : Theatre of the Oppressed) their two-day journey allowed them to identify how they arrived at that moment. (i.e. S.I.T. students visiting a prison in Eshowe, and inmates incarcerated in Eshowe Prison.)


“Look at yourself right now and identify how you got from where you were to where you are today. I am sure there have been a series of specific steps that you have taken on your journey that have brought you to where you are at this minute. You are where you are because of yourself. It has been your choices and your decisions over the months and years that have brought you to this very moment.”


As individuals,in pairs, in small and large groups, discussions were held, games were played, physical exercises tried out and finally basic understanding was reached of their similarities and differences – the choices that set them apart, and what defined themselves as people – their humanity.


The workshop ended with an hour of delightful entertainment by both groups. My thanks to Pretty Nsibande, Thembalethu Nhlebela and Lamo Jama for assisting me.


An emotionally dramatic Family Conference

March 5th, 2012

Deputy Director Nathi Shandu and Father Meshack Vilakazi facilitated a wonderful Family Conference in a Zululand prison last week.

The group assembles, just before leaving the prison, leaving their men behind, yet hopeful that the future will be different and better.


Phoenix Facilitators are often left wondering about the qualities of reflexivity implicit in family life as revealed in the actions and statements during Family Conferences. Do people understand fully the motives they have in acting and behaving as they have? Yet the changes in thinking that happen during the conferences certainly are an indication that new understandings are reached, often with the implication that the blame, denunciation of and demands for contrition from serving prisoners are ameliorated. The causes of criminal offending often reach very deeply into the collective life of families over a long period, and so many people have come to understand this. Helping to lift some of the great load of culpability and shame is a vital part of Family Conferencing, though not to the exclusion of taking responsibility for actions on their lives by serving prisoners.


A very important lesson families take away with them from Family Conferences derives from impassioned pleas, variously expressed, that prisoners should not be forgotten by them. That is an abiding fear that almost all prisoners experience.


In some prisons, Phoenix Family Conferences occur in the heart of the prison, usually in the only space available. This prompts a large amount of varying interest from the surrounding cells. Here, in this picture, two men try to phone home during the conference for others, perhaps prompted into renewed feelings of loss by their exclusion from family life . Some spend hours watching and listening from their barred cell windows.


A non-paricipating prisoner watches a Phoenix Family Conference from a cell.

Inevitably, there are always some individuals at Family Conferences that valuably put  distinctive and unique stamps on the occasions. The Phoenix team never knows quite what to expect owing to the fact that they meet members of families for the first time at the conferences. They simply have to be so very alert to unfolding therapeatic opportunities as they emerge, and encourage these to be entrenched in memory for all those who attend the conferences.


A prisoner, unrelated to Gogo, gets a huge hug which said, in effect, "we are all part of this family gathered here today".




Family Conferences are happening continually

March 5th, 2012

Lamo Jama and Deuty Drector Nathi Shandu facilitated an extraordinarily original Family Conference last week.


Lamo – together with a Phoenix visiting artist, Annemarie Beukes – introduced the Conference by asking inmates to speak to the attending families about self-portraiture they had accomplished in the preceding weeks. It proved to be a wonderful way to get things going. Each man, as he spoke about his own artistic work, revealed things about his own past and the way he had come to think of himself, his vulnerabilities and the way he now sees unfolding opportunities, in the present and after parole. As several said, they had never tried to do anything artistic before, and this exercise served as a superb metaphor to help them understand the largest of all possible projects: the revision of their own lives in relation to their families.

It was very noticeable to Phoenix Facilitators how much members of families responded to an evidently new kind of emotional expression and way of speaking from their imprisoned members of their families. The value of this lies in our being able to show that prisoners are capable of extending ideas of what it is to find a way back to family and society after prison. It is far more that merely expressions of contrition – it goes into what it is for an ex-prisoner to be once more a creative contributor to the collective health of the communiity of family and friends.


Well done Lamo; we were all deeply moved.

The beginning of a a Family Conference: who am I?

A man speaks about how he thinks about himself as he explains his own self-portrait.

As usual, the families gathered for a group photograph after this emtional event during which we felt there had been palpable reconciliation between inmates and their families.

Families gather for a photograph before a few tears and sad goodbyes. But there was elation at the prospect of parole in the not too distant future.


As always at our Family Conferences, the Phoenix was there: a referential touchstone for all present:

Arise, once more, brightness in our lives.

[Refer to the next post.]

Nathi Shandu and Lamo Jama at the Family Conference

The Phoenix

February 12th, 2012

The Phoenix: a painting done by a long-term prisoner who was deeply inspired by his experience of the Programme. The painting is large, and is executed on A2 paper.


The name of the Programme has been unexpectedly and triumphantly apposite in the nine years that the organization has worked in Zululand’s prisons. The ancient  myth of the beautiful bird that immolates itself and then rises  from the ashes has been told again and again in the prison programmes, in a thousand different contexts. It has been thoroughly appropriated in the telling of so many life-stories. It has been drawn, painted, and modelled in clay. In Family Conferences, it has very often become the mythic template by which families mould their own specific narratives.

This widespread public resonance with the myth may have several explanations. The most intriguing suggests that this ancient story, alien in cultural provenance, is potent beyond its thematic relevance. The story “speaks” to people about the universality of their predicaments in falling foul of the local law, resulting in incarceration. In other words, it is the fact of the myth deriving from a different age and culture that gives it its local symbolic power: if you come to understand that the story of your messed-up life is foreshadowed by the criminal actions and pedicaments of others in different cultures down the ages, in a significant way the burden of culpability and guilt is ameliorated, and you can set your mind upon a putative resurrection from the ashes of your life.

Those who name their programmes of social action by reference to the local vernacular (in the laudable pursuit of being “relevant”) miss this vital point. The name of a social programme should, in our view, suggest the universal human connections within the social and individual problems with which we all try to grapple. To be imprisoned with a total loss of liberty  is a catastrophe for the human spirit, and this desolation should be connected to the unfolding human drama through all ages that prizes freedom above all other values.

For us, the Phoenix continues to be a wonderful symbol.




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