By Masilo Malakwane
QWAQWA – Although the offender rehabilitation and reintegration program has been embraced as a vital component of a comprehensive and holistic crime-fighting strategy, 38-year old Dimakatso Mokoena of Boiketlo Village is having a hard time because she has a criminal record.
Mokoena was convicted to 18 years’ imprisonment after being found guilty of drug trafficking. She was arrested at OR Tambo International Airport in 2010 on her way back from Brazil. This is the second year she has been released on parole by the department of correctional services, but she faces an insurmountable challenge finding a job as she has a criminal record.
She told The Guard that luckily, having been jailed for 10 years has taught her to look at life’s challenges differently. “People are very scared of us because of lack of information on what we are being taught while in prison to help rehabilitate us,” said Mokoena.
She said she would also be more interested in getting a job befitting of her qualifications.
“I was a fleet manager of a private company in Gauteng, but got retrenched due to the Covid-19 pandemic”. She completed her matric and an N6 certificate in marketing management whilst in prison.
Another ex-con, Jappie Tshabalala (41) of Mphatlalatsane village is also walking a similar journey. Tshabalala who was convicted of murder and later released in 2016, said since his release from prison five years ago nothing seemed to be going right for him as far as job hunting is concerned.
“The rehabilitation and integration program of the department has played an important role and assisted us a lot in terms of our social cohesion and acceptance back to society. I have also managed to study electrical engineering upon my release and learnt a few artisan skills, but I’m still struggling to get a breakthrough in the unemployment chain because of my criminal record,” said Tshabalala.
Meanwhile, the Area Commissioner of Correctional Services, Jacob Mbele said they have released 275 parolees and probationers in Maluti a Phofung constituency. He said the need to host such programs with government stakeholders and businesses is because they were “trying to eradicate the criminal record stigma that prevented ex-offenders from getting jobs and being accepted back into the society. Others have started their own artistic business with the knowledge gained while is detention,” he said.
Mbele also appealed to the private sector to assist in recruiting former prisoners as they had passed the test of time under their watchful eye. “We also need to prevent the marginalization of ex-offenders by the community as it would have far-reaching consequences going forward,” Mbele said.