Reuniting offenders and their families

2011-04-08 00:00

TEARS of joy ran down the face of 70-year-old Joseph Silangwe when he met his 22-year-old grandson for the first time since the youngster was convicted and sentenced to 25 years’ imprisonment for rape.

Silangwe met Xolisani at New Prison in Pietermaritzburg yesterday morning during the Sesikhulile Motivational Workshops aimed at reuniting offenders with their families. The ceremony was organised by Lucky Cyprian Mpungose (34), a former prison warder now serving a life sentence for the murder of KwaZulu-Natal Correctional Services boss Thuthukile Bhengu on the New Prison premises in 2001.

Also attending the function was South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) president, Jabulani Mthembu, whose organisation is the main sponsor of Sesikhulile.

Silangwe, whose grandson was convicted while in Grade 9, travelled all the way from Bizana in the Eastern Cape to join other families spending the day at the prison with their convicted loved ones. The offenders were encouraged to open up to their parents and spouses and apologise for the crimes that led them to prison.

“When my grandson was convicted I never felt angry with him because I believe that he is innocent. I want my grandson to come back home because I miss him,” said Silangwe.

Mpungose said most of the parents still believe that their children were convicted for crimes they did not commit.

“Other offenders lied to their families by saying they don’t know why they are in prison. The programme is meant for offenders to admit to their families that they committed their crimes.

“Charity begins at home. You cannot reconcile with the victims before you reconcile with your family. Many have been neglected by their families because the offenders have not apologised to them,” said Mpungose, who declined to comment about his offence.

Since he was sentenced in 2002, Mpungose has obtained a BA Degree in Developmental Studies and an Honours Degree in South African and International history through the University of South Africa. He is pursuing further studies.

He formed Sesikhulile last year in Westville Prison where he started by facilitating the rehabilitation of 250 offenders. In New Prison he is working with 158 offenders, who volunteered to be part of the programme.

“From here I’m going back to Westville Prison to work with 350 new recruits. Thereafter I will take the programme to Ncome and Waterval prisons. I wish it could accommodate all prisoners around the country,” he said.

Mthembu said an offender should always be treated like a human being, and be given chances to develop in life when he walks out of prison.

“Even if a bank note is covered by mud you don’t throw it away, because it still has the same value,” Mthembu said.

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