He thought he had it all. A fancy club, luxury cars, friends who hung on to his every word.
He had everything he had ever wanted, but because he never worked for them, he lost them just as quickly as he got them.
For years Themba Lukhele (41) lived a life of crime. He never imagined that it would one day catch up with him.
Until he was arrested for robbery, kidnapping, impersonation of a police officer and malicious damage to property. He was sentenced in 2013 to seven years in jail at the Boksburg Correctional Centre.
He spent three and a half years in jail and served the rest out on parole. Now he spends his time telling others not to go down the same path because it doesn’t pay.
“It is true what they say about karma. It might take days, weeks, months, or years. But what you do to others shall surely come back to you. I learned that the hard way,” he says.
He detailed all his experiences in his books, Through It All, released in 2017 and King Pin, which came out recently.
The former taxi business owner says he is not proud of the decisions he made as a young man.
“Money and power can be blinding,” he says. “I thought I had it all. At 27 years I owned a nightclub, I had 22 cars and a Porsche. I felt invincible.” But when he got locked up, all was taken away from him.“I had to learn the art of patience,” he says. “I had no freedom of movement. In prison, I stood in line to eat and to pee. I ate when I was told, I ate what I was given and I learned to be humble the hard way,” he says.
The adjustment was hard as he had been living a fast life before prison.
At the time, he was the owner of a renowned night celebrity hangout and nightclub, Skeem GP in Katlehong.
Getting in trouble
He got into a life of crime as a teenager. He was mingling with a bad crowd from an early age in Katlehong.“I remember getting arrested at 15 years old for stealing a firearm,” he recalls.“I regret some of the decisions I made. Back then, we had no good role models to look up to and we wanted to be like the guys who drove nice cars, not knowing how they acquired those material things.”
He learnt some hard life lessons when he got arrested.“I burned my fingers a lot. But now I want to give back to the people that I have hurt and to those on the path to making mistakes. I wish to help change their direction,” he says.
This is why he’s writing books.
“Through It All was about my life behind bars and learning to appreciate life the hard way. The new book, King Pin is to help offenders and those pursuing the life of crime to change their minds and find other means of making a living,” he says.
In prison, Themba joined the organization ‘Making a Difference generation’ where he later became a chairperson and led offenders who wanted to better their lives and give back to the community upon release.When he was released in 2016 on parole, he joined ‘Act Now’ a movement that fights against Gender-based Violence.
He also became an ambassador for Under-Performing Learners (UPL) where he speaks to Grade 12 learners around the country about the importance of education, self-discipline, and avoiding the life of crime.He also partnered with DJ Sbu through the Sibusiso Leope Foundation and toured over 1000 schools and prisons giving motivational talks.“I do not wish for even my biggest enemy to make the same mistakes as me. Life is too precious, and crime is not a quick escape,” he says.
The now rehabilitated author acknowledges his past mistakes and hopes to inspire others by telling his story. But he would not trade his experience for anything because it gave birth to the man he is today.“We do not all need to learn the hard way. Some people need to hear my story and decide to change,” he says.
Later this year Themba will be releasing his life documentary titled Resurgence, Revival. The doccie will feature a number of celebrities, politicians and Dr. Mlapo who is his mentor.“All those people helped me to become the man I am today. In the doccie they will speak about my life through their eyes,” he says.
“This documentary is not meant to glorify my past, but to help others learn from my mistakes.”
The father of four just wants to raise awareness about crime and if he can help one person, he would have done his job.“Life is not an audition. One mistake can change everything. I cannot undo my past, but I can help someone to make the right choices,” he says.“Today I am a God-fearing man raising his children and helping to make a change in people’s lives and I get to have a peaceful night’s rest without worrying about whether I will see tomorrow.”