A parolee runs a thriving bakery business, thanks to skills acquired whilst under incarceration

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There is undeniable evidence that the highly acclaimed correctional and skills programmes offered by the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) are the ideal tonic required to inspire renewed hope amongst offenders, and to help them to turn their lives around post their incarceration period. The DCS Self-Sufficiency and Sustainability (SSS) strategic framework is an important bedrock, and has given fresh impetus to efforts to save costs for the department, whilst at the time imparting invaluable and market related skills to offenders which put them in good stead to sustain themselves beyond their period of incarceration.

Many ex-offenders continue to confound sceptics and doomsayers, by shunning the life of crime, and tapping into a vast array of skills they learned whilst under incarceration to build a better socioeconomic future for themselves and their communities.

Mr Kgalane Thobejane (62), who was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2001 for murder and robbery is one such offender who benefited from skills learned while incarcerated at Polokwane Management Area. Thobejane said his life started to turn around for the better when he accepted his fate, and opted against joining gangs. “Without accepting one’s mistakes, one will never get proper rehabilitation as you will be in denial. I accepted my fate and started attending different programmes such as anger management, which worked wonders in my life, as it taught me to endure and respect everyone’s views,” he said.

Good behaviour gave him opportunities to attend different development programmes including one on baking, under the mentorship of Mr Stanten Peters in Mangaung G4S Correctional Centre. He passed the course with flying colours, and thereafter started to work in the centre bakery.

His release was not all smooth sailing as he had to contend with severe criticism and stigmatization from his own family members and the community. This prompted him to reach out to DCS community corrections to assist him find a new place to stay. After learning about his desperate plight, the headman of Manapyane village allocated a piece of land he would later call home. Thereafter, Thobejane started a small business of selling snacks and sweets which enabled to save some capital to establish his own bakery with the assistance from Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA).

The socioeconomic benefits are undeniable, with Thobejane now running a thriving bakery with an average produce of 240 loaves of bread per day, and a growing clientele. His business is growing in leaps and bounds and now receives orders for scones for weddings, funerals and birthday celebrations. Cupcakes, muffins, buns and doughnuts are also baked in his bakery. Thobejane has offered to teach two unemployed youths to bake scones and cakes, with the hope that someday, they can also start their own businesses.

Thobejane holds a Diploma in Agriculture from UNISA, which he obtained during his period of incarceration. “My dream is that one day I can own land so that I can start farming and employ the youth and help hem to make a living. My advice to other offenders is that they must behave and listen to their monitoring officials, because without respect, they will never get such opportunities. I encourage offenders to change their attitude and start behaving well,” he concluded.

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