Ex-offender Ludwe Qamata is ploughing back into this community – quite literally.
Since being release on parole, he has been working with seniors in Khayelitsha, where he is from, and equipping them with gardening skills that he learned while in jail.
The 33-year-old, affectionately known as the “Ghetto Gardener”, trains people who want to learn to work the land. It was while serving a 12-month prison sentence that he learned about gardening. He was, however, released after three months.
Recalling what had led to him being jailed in 2009, he said he had stabbed to death someone who had gotten into a fight with his friend.
After he was released, he identified a gap in his community of Khayelitsha, and was eager to teach the seniors what he had learned in the jail.
“We used to clean houses and gardens while I was in jail. I could say I got rehabilitated by working in the garden. I then decided that I need to come out and help people to have healthy foods,” he told Vukani.
He said it was important for him to transfer the skills to everyone who is willing to learn, and has also been working with children at schools in Khayelitsha.
“If we all work the land, we can defend a lot of things including diseases because we have healthy foods. People need to know the importance of eating organic foods rather than what they consume now,” said Mr Qamata.
He commended the people he works with at Sinovuyo Old Age Home, saying that their positivity made him feel like a real part of the community.
He said the Sinovuyo project in particular had given him a great outlook on life. “This is my therapeutic space. I’m always feeling positive about what is to come here. I am blessed to work with people like these seniors,” he said.
Christina Dlula, 74, is among those involved in the initiative. “He teaches a lot of great things,” she said.
“We used to plant but did not know some of the skills. We now know different skills and I even have a garden at home, something I never thought that I would ever do. We are grateful to have him among us,” she said.
Nonceba Mkoko, 66, said she never imagined she’d be eating cauliflower and other vegetables from her backyard but now that is possible. “He is gifted. I think he was born for this. He has done a great job for us here. All I knew to plant was corn meal and cabbages. Now we have cauliflowers, broccolis, and others,” she said.
For the time being, Mr Qamata’s focus is on Sinovuyo Old Age and schools and he wants to see youngsters off the streets to chase their dreams.