Former inmate turned Journalist Tshifhiwa Given Mukwevho believes that Rehabilitation is possible and it worked for him.
Growing up in the dusty streets of Madombidzha, next to Makhado in Limpopo, the now 36 year old Tshifhiwa Given Mukwevho used to participate in all childhood activities just like all his peers before finding himself on the wrong side of the law. His never-say-die attitude even in the face of such adversity is what makes him stand out today as living proof that rehabilitation, reformation and reintegration of offenders back into society is possible.
When Mukwevho found himself behind bars, not only did he accepted the fact that he had wronged society, but he also embraced all kinds of rehabilitation therapy afforded to him by the Department of Correctional Services.
“I knew and accepted from the onset that what I did, the very crimes which had me sentenced to prison, were wrong,” he said. “I was only 14 when I was arrested and sentenced to 22 years’ imprisonment for breaking into and stealing from the business premises in Makhado, Limpopo, during early 90s.”
Mukwevho was released on parole on 23 November 2010, since then, he has been living a responsible life and his commitment and renewed view in life paid dividends as today Mukwevho is a seasoned journalist, editor, writer, and publisher.
“I was raised by a single mother. She was away most of the time and I had to fend for myself and my three siblings,” recollects Mukwevho. “So I was on my own most of the time, hence I strayed and found myself with the wrong company of friends, I just found myself thrown into the wider world without any proper parental guidance; I was a small fish in a bottomless sea gasping for a breath of fresh air” recalled Mukwevho.
Mukwevho deserted school after passing what was then known as standard four, Grade 6 today, and adopted a popular habit alongside his peers of walking to town daily for about 11km for a shoplifting spree. The soft spoken Mukwevho was eventually arrested and sentenced for the crimes he committed. It was during his incarceration when started toying with the idea of ending his life inside prison.
“Prison life forms part of a painful experience,” he said. “I survived by the grace of God. The spirit of suicide was the most troublesome demon enfolding me most of the times when I was in jail. I was surely facing a lengthy jail term, without any mutual or family support for the first seven years.”
The most important lesson which his prison experience taught him was to work harder for everything that one needs in life – never take short cuts!
“I see nothing good about being in prison; yes, there are prison warders who dedicate their lives to help us turn around our lives for the better,” he said. “Not all prison warders are bad, there are good ones who ensure to accomplish departmental mandate and objective of the rehabilitation of offenders. “I sincerely convey my gratitude to correctional officials who helped me to be a better and useful person to my family and community at large.” After his release from prison, Mukwevho was well received in his village, but still poverty glared him in the face.
In 2011 the self-taught writer, published the first of his 37 books which he wrote while he was in prison, titled A Traumatic Revenge, which was followed by many others. Today, he is a reputable and well decorated, full-time publisher, and owns a publishing company known as Vhakololo Press, (in which town)
“I am operating a business right in the very same town whose shops I used to break into,” he said coyly. “I feel that I will not be moving to any other town. This is my town and I need to contribute to its growth and excellence.”
Mukwevho is an award-winning author who writes in English and Tshivenda. His love for literature has had him read and recite his prose and poetry in several book festivals, schools, correctional centres, refugee camps and airports in South Africa, China, Algeria, Hong Kong and Dubai.
His published books include among others – A Traumatic Revenge (short stories, 2011), Mveledzo na Zwigevhenga (children’s book, 2015), It Gets Deeper (Poetry, 2020), It Was Getting Late (Poetry, 2017), The Other Side of Darkness (2020), Ṅwananga Nandi! (Drama, 2016), Melody of the Soul (Poetry, 2020),” he said.
Mukwevho continues to establish himself as a powerful persona in society, and a motivating force among the youth, proving through good work that there is life after prison and that the youth do not belong in prison.
“Together we can break the cycle of crime and through social reintegration of offenders our country can be a better place, concluded Mukwevho”.