An ex offender who learnt the hard way that crime does not pay is on a mission to warn learners not to follow in his footsteps.Mandla Bula, 28, from Khayelitsha, said he has started engaging in crime prevention programmes, visiting three schools and motivating learners to stay clear of crime.Chris Hani Arts and Culture High School, Sinako and Masiyile Senior Secondary School, were visited.He has invited Thanduxolo Mgijima,36, a friend he met behind bars, and Baliswa Nomandela, a chef from Protea Hotel, Franschhoek branch, to share their cooking skills with Grade 12 learners at Masiyile Senior Secondary School, on Wednesday.The aim, he said, was to motivate them and also to let them know that they can consider making a career as chefs.Bula and Mgijima said they grabbed all the opportunities to study tomputer literacy, mechanical engineering, business management and hospitality whilst in prison. “I am now working as a manager at Val D’or since last year in May. I want to share my skills with learners now. I am also doing the prevention programmes for them not go take the route of crime. I grew-up in a Christian family, but due to peer pressure, I abandoned the principles that my parents taught me. I really disappointed them more especially my mother. She had to be admitted in hospitals, because of the depression she suffered,” Bula said. Bula, who grew-up in Site B, got involved in crime after he passed matric in 2005.He was first arrested for being in possession of unlicenced firearm in the same year, but was released in 2007 on parole.He was arrested again two months after he was released for armed robbery and he was sentenced to eight years in prison, but he served seven years of the sentence.He was released in 2013.Mgijima was arrested in 2003 for murder and armed robbery.He was sentenced to 31 years in prison, but he served two years of the sentence in Pollsmoor prison and he was transferred to Drakenstein Prison where he was released in March this year.“I realised when I was in prison the time I wasted doing crime. I did not have a good role model. I am here now to warn learners that crime is not the way to go. If you have a criminal record you are limited in many things. I cannot even go abroad,” Mgijima said.Mgijima was born in Colesberg and grew-up in Crossroads.Learners were excited with their visit.Asenathi Nqanda, a Grade 12 learner at the school, said she was inspired by the visit.“I am so happy and my classmates are also happy. I am learning a lot from them. I want to be a well known chef in future. I love cooking and I get happy when people enjoy my food,” Nqanda said.Bula said he believes that their lives where not changed by any punishment or torture of what they did. He said crime has no payment.He realised that they did “horrible things” to people and that lives wasted will never be replaced or paid by a sentence served in prison.“We believe that our change was given to us by God as life in Jesus Christ. God is the only person that can take something bad and turn it into good. We don’t take any credit of who we have become but we give God the glory for everything he did to us while we were separated from the world,” he added.