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Life after prison: Become part of a Free State garden project

───   TSHEHLA KOTELI 12:00 Tue, 28 Nov 2023

Life after prison: Become part of a Free State garden project  | News Article
“Our hope is that once our crops grow, we will be able to sell to our communities and big supermarkets in Maluti-a-Phofung.” Photo supplied.

"Five years ago, Tladi Tshabalala and Makomoreng Mabula walked into Kroonstad prison."

Two ex-convicts made a decision to change their lives after prison and join a garden project in the Eastern Free State.

The two men, Tladi Tshabalala and Makomoreng Mabula, were sentenced five years ago for different crimes and stayed at the Kroonstad prison. According to a post by the Free State Provincial Government, soon after their release they joined a group of men and women in their neighbourhood who have started a vegetable garden at the Tshea College.

Men and women in the neighbourhood started a vegetable garden at the Tshea College. Photo supplied

The garden project is led by Potsane Ramabesa and they work on a 10-hectare land on a daily basis. Tshabalala warned the youth to stay away from criminality and stop using the word "hustling" as an excuse to get money by any means. “This mentality of ‘hustling’ which is getting money by any means, is completely wrong and it can lead to either prison, like we did, or a grave. We can make lives for ourselves without resorting to criminality. All that is needed is hard work and dedication.”

Mabula reflected back on how his time in prison was, labelling it as “difficult”. 

“Prison is a difficult place. There is danger everywhere, and one must always be on guard – that is prison for you.” They both agree that a combination of youthful foolishness, ignorance and a need to prove their mettle to their peers landed them inside what they described as a cage. “In a very short space of time, the innocence which defined their youth was completely gone and replaced by a nightmarish stint in prison.”

The project became possible after Minah Moloi applied for funding from the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure. Photo supplied

Ramabesa, who jointly started the garden project, said it was started nearly six months ago and they haven't produced much as yet. “Our hope is that once our crops grow, we will be able to sell to our communities and big supermarkets in Maluti-a-Phofung.” The project became possible after Minah Moloi, the garden project's founder, applied for funding from the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure.

“The department called for applications for Expanded Public Works Programme funding, particularly in the agricultural sector. I applied and fortunately, the application was approved. The money really is for the sustenance of the people working in our gardens and we are grateful because they are not loitering on the streets, complaining about being unemployed. They are actually doing something to feed their families,” said Moloi.

OFM News/Tshehla Koteli Corné

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