New lease on life for ex-convicts

2017-02-22 06:01
PHOTO: nokuthula khanyile Basil Mthethwa displays some of his work.

PHOTO: nokuthula khanyile Basil Mthethwa displays some of his work.

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HEEDING to the call by ex-convicts, who have a difficult time finding employment once out of prison, Msunduzi Municipality has initiated a programme to help reintegrate them back into society through skills and entrepreneurial programmes.

This special project was officially launched on Monday and will be the first of many to assist ex-offenders with numerous projects like community gardens, sewing projects, school mentorship programmes and a human settlements building programme.

Basil Mthethwa, a convicted criminal also set to benefit from the project, was released from prison a few years ago fearing the worst.

But today, a few years after completing his 20-year sentence, Mthethwa is using the sewing skill he acquired while serving time to make a living.

After getting out of prison Mthethwa said he worried about finding a job because of his criminal record.

“I decided to put my sewing skill to good use and started a clothing business. I registered my company in 2012, and employed four people,” he said.

“In July last year I made enough money and purchased a van, but unfortunately it got hijacked in Pongola on the way to deliver stock. I owed a loan shark money and he took all my industrial machines and I had to start from scratch with the business.”

Mthethwa said losing his business almost caused him to relapse and return to a life of crime, but he moved away from Mpangeni and came to Pietermaritzburg in January.

He said he was grateful for the project because it has helped him and others to re-establish themselves so they can put food on the table for their loved ones.

Speaking on behalf of the office of the mayor, Sphamandla Khumalo said the project was also initiated to create a crime-free city.

“Through the experiences of the past you have learnt the hard way and you know the consequences of crime.

“You are the best candidates to work with to be the champions in our fight against crime in our city.

“We are trying to create a crime-free Pietermaritzburg, but what we would like to see from all of you is the display of trust, honesty and respect.

“We believe you can reform, that is why we are engaging with you through this broader plan of creating a safe city and creating opportunities for all of you.”

Khumalo said the municipality was aware of the uphill struggle ex-offenders faced.

“Not getting employment leads you to relapse and go back to a life of crime. You continue to confront prejudice, you are sidelined and ignored in the bigger scale of things.

“No matter what you try, you remain engaged in a constant battle to make your voices heard.

“The municipality wants to use the talent you have and incorporate it into the bigger stream of society,” he said.

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