Skills programme proves a success – life after prison

The year 2008 was a difficult one for most Zimbabweans. The shortage of jobs, the failing economy and the political repression that characterised the year made normal life for Nomatter Mhlanga (28) impossible.

Plans to extend the rehabilitation programme – Liberty Mhlanga.
Plans to extend the rehabilitation programme – Liberty Mhlanga.

He saw housebreaking and unlawful entry as his last hope of survival. But the spate of crimes that he committed in Rusape to eke out a living ended in arrest and a five-year prison sentence.

Mhlanga is serving his jail term at Mutare Farm Prison and he has high hopes and dreams of starting a new life when he comes out of jail in March next year. He is grateful to the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service’s (ZPCS) rehabilitation programmes that have seen him learning tailoring and enhancing his football skills.

Mhlanga and many other inmates at the prison are some of the beneficiaries of the programmes that are aimed at giving inmates a chance of a new life when they complete their jail terms. “When I was incarcerated, I had lost hope and thought that I would rot in jail,” said Mhlanga. “Now that I will be out in March next year, I hope to start my own business of tailoring using the skills that I have acquired here. I am now able to cut and design cloth and use other tailoring skills. I have learnt that crime does not pay and I will be a reformed person. I am looking forward to starting my own business.”

He is also a star player for the prison’s soccer team where he has mastered football skills in the midfield. “Some teams have been making enquiries about me. I hope that I will join a big team when I complete my term,” he said. Zifa eastern region division one soccer teams Sundowns and Dongo FC have confirmed they’re seeking Mhlanga’s services.

Fellow inmate Samson Mabika (25), who is serving a two-year term for housebreaking and unlawful entry, has acquired welding skills and has been awarded a certificate. He too will be out next year.

“I hope to start my own business. I will appeal to well-wishers to give me capital to start my project,” he said. “I want to start a new life and look after my family back home. This rehabilitation project has given me a first step to move forward with my life when I am freed from jail,” he added.

Mathias Kitchen (43), who was jailed in 2009, took his O levels in prison and passed five subjects, including English, maths and science.

“I also did plumbing and passed all the levels,” he said. “I’m now waiting for a plumbing licence. I hope to start my own plumbing business and I want to thank the prison services for giving me the knowledge and skills.”

Kitchen, who stole electricity cables, will be out in 2015. Pharaoh Phiri (24) has become a qualified motor mechanic while serving a three-year jail term for culpable homicide. He was jailed in 2012 and will be out in 2015.

“I have acquired the skills and I am hopeful that I will be employed at a motor mechanic workshop or start my own business. I glad that I have used my time in jail to achieve something that will help me when I am out,” Phiri said.

ZPCS public relations officer Liberty Mhlanga said: “Our major aim is to empower the inmates with various skills so that when they go back out into the world they will have something that gives them life.

“We believe that prisoners come to prisons to be rehabilitated. We are very happy with the successes we have achieved so far,” added Mhlanga.

He added that the ZPSC will next year increase the number of rehabilitation programmes to help more inmates reintegrate with society.

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