The 28th of October 2021 marked the culmination of a successful collaboration between the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) and Assupol Life, as acting National Commissioner, Makgothi Thobakgale and Assupol Life Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Bridget Mokwena-Halala led their respective teams, to formally hand over a refurbished and fully furnished house to the Ramosotho family. The Ramasotho family from Lotus Gardens in the west of Pretoria were, for a little while, engulfed by utter despair and hopelessness, after a section of their family home and belongings were gutted by fire which was sparked by faulty wiring on an electrical meter box in June this year.
After the fire was extinguished, Ms Lydia Ramosotho (70), her unemployed son Gabriel (35) and her sister Albertina Banyatsang (65) were left dejected at the sight of what used to be their humble abode. Unable to refurbish the house and replace the damaged furniture due to their indigent economic state, the trio wondered and agonised over where help would come, if at all!
Little did they know that their loss was also a loss to the community!
Akin to a ray of light piercing through a thick dark cloud, hope was rekindled when a local community leader, Mpogatse Thalitha Mogweng, reached out to Assupol Life, to assist in making the Ramasotho family home habitable again.
Terry Tempest Williams once said, “Despair shows us the limit of our imagination. Imagination shared creates collaboration, and collaboration creates community, and community inspires social change.” Having assessed the damage to the home, the insurer approached DCS, through the Area Commissioner of Kgoši Mampuru II Management Area, Emmanuel Khoza, with a proposal to join forces to refurbish the house. Assupol committed to buy the material required to refurbish the house. Without hesitation, DCS committed to the partnership, by pledging offender labour.
Commissioner Thobakgale extoled the collaboration between DCS and Assupol Life, and said the project was a great example of the public and private sector working together for the greater good of the community. “I echo the sentiments of Minister Ronald Lamola, who previously said that we need a social compact between private sector and government to build a just society. Rebuilding the Ramasotho’s home was active citizenship in action. By bringing together people to work towards a common good, we are a step closer towards social cohesion, which is sorely needed in our country,” said Commissioner Thobakgale.
Assupol Life CEO, Bridget Mokwena-Halala, said the refurbished home stood as a symbol of hope, and commended Correctional Services for availing parolees and offenders to assist with the renovations. “We are happy to have served the family in this way, and I am particularly thankful for Minister Ronald Lamola’s willingness to allow the Department of Correctional Services’ rehabilitation programme to promote a just and safe community, by catering to the basic needs of this family,” she said. The group of inmates and parolees removed burnt debris, painted the house, and installed new windows to safety standards.
Gauteng Regional Commissioner (RC), Thakane Molatedi congratulated the parolees and inmates for the excellent work they did, and thanked the Ramasotho family and the community of Lotus Gardens for not exorcizing them due to their past demeanours, choosing instead to embrace them. Echoing RC Molatedi’ words, Director Community Liaison, Hangwi Nesengani urged the community to give ex-offenders a second chance when they are released from incarceration. He said, by participating in community development projects, offenders are demonstrating that they recognise the harm they have caused in society, for which they are sorry.
A visibly emotional Ramasotho thanked DCS and Assupol Life for refurbishing the house and restoring her family’s dignity. “When I think about the depressed and uncertain state I found myself in, in the aftermath of the blaze that gutted my house, when I would wake up in the middle of the night and sob, I can’t help but thank DCS and Assupol for their acts of kindness.