‘Choose your circle wisely’
The importance of choosing one’s circle wisely was a point of emphasis at the St Albans Correctional Centre when former inmate Luvuyo Ngxiki, 39, gave a motivational talk to offenders’ families on Saturday.
The Iinkumbuzo Photography founder hosted the talk to commemorate his 12th year as a free man after he had spent seven years in jail for car theft from the age of 20.
Initially, he had planned to hold the talk with prisoners at the centre, their families and problematic youth.
However, because of the recent stabbing of three warders at St Albans, the inmates were not allowed to attend.
Correctional services area co-ordinator of development and care Nomsa Molo said: “We are short-staffed because although three warders were wounded, others were left traumatised by the incident and have booked off sick.
“So we thought it best to not bring the inmates into the hall without enough staff.”
Family members could visit inmates after the talk.
Speaking alongside his mother, Nomonde Mgoduka, and former convict Zuki Magongo, Ngxiki told of how his need to fit in and prove he was not a “mama’s boy” – as he was dubbed by his peers – had paved his way to prison.
“My mother did everything for me but my peers in Kwazakhele weren’t as fortunate so they had to hustle to get by, so in our conversations my voice didn’t have much value because I was a mama’s boy.
“My first offence was getting caught shoplifting in Greenacres at 13 years old, and even though the punishment wasn’t prison, that was the first thing that earned me respect among my peers, so of course I was going to do it again,” Ngxiki said.
It was after dropping out of school, several short arrests later and moving out of home at the age of 18 that Ngxiki was found in an accident with a stolen car in Parys, Free State.
He was arrested and sentenced to seven years in prison.
“In prison you find all sorts of people and that’s where I chose to associate myself with the educated gents I had much to learn from them as a school dropout.”
Ngxiki, whose criminal record has now been cleared, completed his matric in prison and now runs Phikelela Empire, under which he operates Iinkumbuzo Photography and his motivational speaking.
Phikelela Empire presently employs four other people.
“I realise now I have always been brilliant because I was the mastermind behind the car theft crimes we committed, but I invested my energy in the wrong things,” he said.
“Luckily this generation lives in the age of the internet and social media where you can communicate with [anyone]. All you have to do is find something you love and use it to make money and be an entrepreneur.”
Referencing the Sans Souci Girls’ High School incident in which a teacher was filmed slapping a pupil, he said parents were not always to blame for their children’s behaviour.
“I hear a lot of people blaming the parent for not teaching the child discipline – but are you trying to tell me that the [scores] of prisoners are here because they weren’t disciplined by their parents?”
A tearful Mgoduka told of the pain and initial denial of a mother whose child was being labelled a criminal.
“Vovo [Ngxiki] was my only child for 17 years, so you can imagine the attention and love he got from me.
“As a mother, the first instinct is to defend your child.
“You shift the blame and are in denial, but reality hits when they produce evidence in court and prove your child is guilty.
“Some of the most painful moments were when I met up with my school friends to catch up and I would excuse myself when they started talking about their children because mine was in jail,” she said.
Magongo echoed Ngxiki’s sentiments on the importance of choosing the right company when she told how she was framed by a friend for shoplifting in her early 20s.
“My mother had warned me against my friends over and over but I never listened.
“That criminal record haunted me and blocked my chances of employment 14 years later,” she said.