After serving a combined total of 11 years in prison, three ex-offenders are now providing a platform for people in their community to turn their lives around.
Mfundo Mfazwe, 30, Zanekhaya Mhlana, 32, and Simthembile Ntshakaza, 27, used to terrorise the community of Khayelitsha and were among the most feared and notorious criminals.
However, after some time behind bars, they opted to change their lifestyles and now use their past experiences to educate and discourage young people from being lured into drugs and crime.
And their life stories have inspired a play called I’m Not YetBorn, which details the dangers and the consequences of being involved in crime-and in which they all feature.
They told Vukani they decided to pen their stories and share them with young people in a bid to show the community that they had changed their ways.
Mr Mfazwe, who was arrested for murder and spent five years in prison, said the play tackled many issues that contributed to crime.
He said young people often glorified criminals, and he hoped the play would encourage young people not to follow in their footsteps.
Mr Mfazwe said the play gave them a once in a lifetime opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to the society and that they now looked at life differently, which had helped them to deal with their past.
He said after he was released from jail, he committed to changing his life.
He said it was hard for them to talk openly about these issues because the community had not really welcomed them.
They were still seen as criminals.
Mr Mfazwe said most former inmates found it hard to change because they were often not welcomed back into society.
“Crime does not pay and we learnt that the hard way. I have realised that prison is not a nice place to be because every day you are constantly fighting for survival. Life is about acknowledging your mistakes and learning from them,” he said.
Mr Mhlana said crime ruined people’s lives.
He said he was part of a 15-member gang, and he is the only one who is still alive. He spent three years in jail awaiting trail for murder and robbery before the cases were dismissed due to lack of evidence. Mr Ntshakaza, who spent three years in jail, appealed to young people to refrain from committing crime. He said the plan was to take this play to various arts festival across the country.
For more information about the play, you can contact Mandisi Sando at 076 035 9672