In preparation for the upcoming National Annual Funda Mzantsi Championship, the Gauteng region held its three-day reading competition from 13 -15 September 2021 under the theme: “Creating Positive Minds Against all Odds”, at the Johannesburg Management Area.
About 120 offenders from different book clubs in the region competed under the reading and book reviewing categories in all 11 official languages. On the first day, offenders participated in book reading and the next day the focus was on book reviewing. Fifteen (15) participants were selected from different clubs to represent the region in the National competition which will take place at the beginning of October 2021.
The Funda Mzantsi book reading competition aims at stimulating and encouraging reading on a continuous basis. It was started 12 years ago by the National Library of South Africa (NLSA) through its outreach unit to support and assist communities to establish and sustain book clubs.
Regional Commissioner Gauteng, Thakane Molatedi, in her keynote address, commended the relationship that the Department has built with the NLSA and the Department of Arts and Culture. RC Molatedi took the opportunity to acknowledge the commitment by correctional officials particularly during the challenging period of the COVID-19 and Gender Based Violence and Femicide pandemics. “This has not been an easy period for all of us, we have lost officials and offenders who were supposed to be here with us,” said Molatedi. She congratulated the winners and commended them for soldiering on amidst all the delays they encountered during the preparations.
Mr Fundile Qatu, Provincial Coordinator at the Department of Sports, Arts, Culture and Recreation in Gauteng, mentioned that since working with the DCS and other public entities, many offenders have shown an interest and benefited from reading. Other speakers applauded the determination that offenders showed in their rehabilitation programmes where they chose to participate in reading despite having not competed during the previous year due to the COVID -19 pandemic.
Two testimonies were shared by former offenders, Juluka Baloyi and Morwesi Theledi, who both served their sentences at Johannesburg Correctional facility. Baloyi is a motivational speaker who visits schools and participates in community corrections and safety programmes. “I am transformed and have broken out of my cocoon. I can only thank the Correctional Services Department for the second chance they gave me to pursue my dream and change my situation”, he said.
Theledi said she discovered her passion for public speaking during her participation in the Fundza Mzantsi Championship while she was still incarcerated. “I grabbed the Funda Mzantsi opportunity and it later opened doors for me. I am now an entrepreneur and the CEO of Ugqozi Solutions, a company offering fraud and money laundering education to companies and Government entities,” she said.