6 September 2019

Byline: Mameema Mdala

The Mpumalanga Department of Community Safety, Security and Liaison took learners from three schools in Gert Sibande District Municipality to a prison visit during the month of August.

They were taken to Bethal Prison.

Learners were deemed to be problematic in their area. 

MEC Gabisile Shabalala said the program will bring about good behaviour and stability in schools. 

She added that the problem of violence in schools has become one of the most pressing educational challenges the country faces. 

“Through reports we have heard that Gert Sibande Region has cases of gang violence in some areas. 

Learning and teaching therefore becomes negatively affected,” said the MEC.

Learners got to interact with the prisoners who discouraged them from committing crimes. 

During the visit, two prisoners volunteered to address the learners. 

Smanga Mtshali from Leandra said he used to drink alcohol and do bad things, but now he is a changed person, gave his life to Christ and he preaches the word of God inside prison. 

“Alcohol will never be your friend, it will only bring you here,” said Mtshali.

He further warned young people that whatever they hear about jail, it is happening for real. 

“If you come in here, you will turn into someone’s girlfriend.

They will not force you, but you will agree due to the situation you find yourself in.

Stay away from tattoos because you do not know their meaning.

When you arrive here with a tattoo, the gangs will interpret it for you and you will find yourself in danger,” added Mtshali. 

During his speech, he also warned them not to join the straghel gangs. 

Onalenna from Vryburg also warned young girls not to cohabit and stay away from alcohol.

She is serving a murder sentence and she regrets what she did.

“I have two children and first born was five years, he is turning fourteen next month and he does not know me. 

“My mother passed on and my siblings do not visit me,” said Onalenna who further mentioned that she did not get visits for nine years from her family since she was convicted. 

She further mentioned that the prison corrected her and once she comes out, she will visit schools and churches to discourage young people from committing the crime.