Former drug dealer defies odds to graduate

2017-04-10 09:31
Thulasizwe Mathenjwa with his children Wanele (9, left) and Uyanda (10) at his graduation last week.

Thulasizwe Mathenjwa with his children Wanele (9, left) and Uyanda (10) at his graduation last week. (Abhi Indrarajan)

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Pietermaritzburg - The indelible gunshot scar on the lower part of Thulasizwe Mathenjwa’s neck does not only remind him of how he almost lost his life, but also how his life changed.

If it had not been for the incident — in which Mathenjwa was ambushed by a group of men on his way back from collecting a drug stash about seven years ago — he would not have been a graduate of the University of KwaZulu-Natal last week.

Mathenjwa (30) graduated with a Bachelor of Social Science degree at the Westville campus, with majors in Geography and Environmental Management.

After his mother, a single parent who worked for many years as a domestic worker, had died, Mathenjwa said his life changed.

After matric, to make ends meet, he found a job. But this was not enough to fulfil his financial obligations.

“I soon found another job but it was not paying enough. The company produced lotions and my job there was to clean the machines. But I was allergic to the chemicals they used and I had to quit it,” Mathenjwa said.

'I had to do it' 

Then his life of selling drugs began.

“It was not an easy decision to make. I knew one day I might land up in jail or be killed. I knew it was dangerous but I had to do it for my two sons and my sister.

“I did it for us to pay rent, buy clothes, and live a normal life like others.”

One Friday night in November 2010, Mathenjwa left his Umlazi home to collect drugs, but he was ambushed by a group of men.

He was shot in the neck during the altercation.

Clairwood Hospital, where he spent 15 months recovering, became his second home.

“I believe that if I had spent a few weeks in hospital, I would have gone back to the same life. Basically, it was not the gunshot that changed my life but the months I had to spend in hospital,” he said.

“I then asked a social worker to help me apply to the university and I was accepted.”

Mathenjwa has now bagged an internship at the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs and is pursuing an honours degree in the same field.

Read more on:    ukzn  |  pietermaritzburg  |  education  |  good news

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