Challenges of life outside prison cells

Matimba Mathebula working on an engine.

LIMPOPO – However, life outside those prison walls is not always as rosy as people assume it to be according to Matimba Mathebula of Giyani Section-A, an ex-convict who served seven years behind bars for murder.

“On your first day home you will experience isolation as people distance themselves from you because they don’t know how you have been in prison,” explained Matimba, saying all the correctional services’ initiatives about re-integration of offenders into society were a total failure in his view.

“I did everything I could to get re-integrated when I came back from prison but the society was not welcoming at all, starting with my own family and neighbours.

“I got rejected everywhere I went to apply for a job, even from the chain stores that are scattered across town.”

He said he later moved out of his parents’ house to look for a place to rent so he could avoid being stigmatised by both his family and neighbours.

“I used to sell various goods to make up for the rent, but things got tougher as responsibilities increased.

“Keeping a girlfriend was a luxury as I couldn’t even feed myself.

“At one point I went back to correctional services’ parole board’s officials to beg them to take me back to prison because things were tough outside, and I was looking for a better option to go back to prison without having to commit crime,” he continued.

Charles Maphosa helps Matimba Mathebula to acquire the necessary mechanical skills so he can make a living for himself.

According to him, this is the situation most offenders are faced with when they get out of prison, hence he has started an organisation called Profexcon, short for Professional Ex-convict that does both motivation in schools and helps to establish communication between offenders and their families.

“There are people who have been there for years and have lost touch with their families. What we do is visit the place where they lived before their arrest to search for any close relative and give them a number to call if they want to communicate with the offender,” he said, warning youth that prison was no place for “bread and butter” for anyone as some youth make it out to be nowadays.

“When you walk in the streets these days you hear youth calling themselves the 26s, but they don’t know what that number represents.

“This is why we’re going around visiting schools to educate youths about the danger of associating themselves with gangsterism,” he said.

He appealed for government’s support to achieve his dream of motivating and re-connecting offenders with their families.

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