Turning their lives around

NEW MAN: Mafika Vilakazi. Pic. Vathiswa Ruselo. 28/01/2010. © Sowetan
NEW MAN: Mafika Vilakazi. Pic. Vathiswa Ruselo. 28/01/2010. © Sowetan

WHEN Mafika Vilakazi realised he had an opportunity to change his life in prison he seized it.

WHEN Mafika Vilakazi realised he had an opportunity to change his life in prison he seized it.

Now he is qualified horticulturist.

"This certificate is going to help me when I get out of prison," Vilakazi, 44, told Sowetan at a graduation ceremony at Leewkop Prison north of Johannesburg last week.

He was top student in the programme.

Vilakazi was 31 when he was convicted of murder in 1996. He was sentenced to 18 years and hopes to be released early next year.

He had only a Grade 5 when he was imprisoned.

"Last year, I passed Grade 10 and I am now studying management skills through Damelin."

The father of two from Emndeni, Soweto, said his dream was to own his own company.

Another student, Eric Xhakaza, 38, said he had been waiting for the day he would receive his certificate.

"Hard work and dedication pay. When I get out of prison I want to be a changed man," he said.

He said his dream was to start a chicken farm.

The armed robber from Dobsonville, Soweto, said he was also a peer educator, teaching other inmates about the dangers of drug abuse and HIV-Aids.

A total of 14 students graduated from the programme offered by Hlumelelisa, a non-profit organisation.

Hlumelelisa founder Lucky Morake said:

"The aim of the project is to make inmates self-sustainable when they go back to their communities."

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