Former prisoners launch marimba band

2016-10-05 09:10

Buziwe Nocuze, GroundUp

Kenton-on-Sea - Two former prisoners from Kenton-on-Sea have beaten the odds to start a music project aimed at keeping young people out of prison.

Luthando Mangaliso, 28, and Patrick Makolo, 40, will be playing marimba in Swaziland at the end of this month. They are training other ex-convicts and youth from their area to play the marimba drums, sing, dance, write poetry, and act.

Makolo grew up in Kenton-on-Sea. His mother lived in Johannesburg and he was raised by his grandmother, a domestic worker, in a household of 13 people. He left school after grade seven.

"Where I grew up we didn't have much to do in terms of sport. We didn't have many role models. Those who succeeded mostly took a short cut in life,” Makolo said.

“Things were tough and I had to do something to help my grandmother. Unfortunately I got mixed up with the wrong crowd, which landed me in prison."

Makolo was arrested in 1998, convicted of attempted murder and robbery and sentenced to 13 years in prison. He said the difficulties of prison life made him think about saving the lives of young people in his area and helping them stay out of trouble.

While he was in St Albans prison in Port Elizabeth he continued his studies, passing Grade 11. He learned to play marimba drums, and to sing and act.


"Because of a criminal record I knew that I was not going to find a job. But at least I had skills", he said.

When he was released, he heard his friend Mangaliso was also being released from prison in Grahamstown after serving a sentence for theft.  

"I was very sad to hear that. This boy had Grade 12 and could have done something better with his life. But because of a lack of job opportunities here, crime seems the only option to survive," Makolo said.

The two started a production company, Sakhulutsha, meaning “we build youth”. They knocked on doors looking for donations, with limited success.

"I'm sure you know how people responded. Not that we blamed them: who can trust a criminal?” Makolo said.

They battled to get youth from the streets to join them. Parents did not trust the two former prisoners and some took their children out of the group.

Then they got their break.

Ndlambe local municipality spokesperson Khululekile Mbolekwa said the group had come asking for help. He contacted the Sarah Baartman district municipality, which bought them drums.


"We see potential and talent in this group", said Mbolekwa. He admired their willingness to change lives after their experience in prison.

The group now has 20 members, six of them former prisoners.

Mangaliso said he was grateful to the municipal officials who decided to take a chance with them. He jumped at the opportunity to start the band.

He was sentenced to six months in prison for theft, but was released after three months due to good behaviour.

“It is not something I'm proud of. That three months felt like three years. I want to make sure that not a single person in my area goes to prison. But we have the challenge of parents who do not trust us," he said.

"We are going to Swaziland this month and we have already performed at the Grahamstown Arts Festival. We were the only marimba band there," Mangaliso said.

Read more on:    port elizabeth  |  music  |  good news

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