TBP team member and previous participant Bennett Ndzoko shares his story.
'I was born and raised at Rispark, south of Johannesburg. I had two siblings who both passed away while I was in prison. I could not attend their funeral because the prison authorities denied me permission. My mother raised me well, and my father played little part in my upbringing. I grew up being an innocent young man who didn’t like violence, but I started fighting for myself because of the bullying I experienced. As a result, I became very violent.'
'I became a caddy at South Downs Country Club Golf Course at eleven, where I learnt some bad habits, such as gambling playing dice, stealing, and drinking alcohol. At thirteen, I was already breaking into cars to steal car radios and wheel caps. I later went on to burglary and stealing cars and even went as far as hijackings.'
'In 1995, at nineteen, I got arrested for a crime I committed when I was eighteen. At that time, I was in standard three (grade five). At twenty, I was sentenced to life, plus fifteen years imprisonment, of which I served eighteen years before I was granted day parole in 2013 and full parole in 2014.'
'In prison, I started to change my life. After thorough self-introspection, I engaged myself in educational programmes. I managed to complete my grade twelve senior certificate and went on to complete my National Certificate N6 in Business Management.'
'My turning point was after realising the pain I had caused my mother. It hit me hard. My mother loved me so much; she stood with me throughout my prison sentence. My involvement in life skills greatly impacted me and helped me realise a need to change. When I came out of prison, I started giving talks at schools. I established the Vlakfontein Men’s Forum NPO, where we are working to prevent gender-based violence, working closely with men and offering mentoring programs to young boys.'