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Ex-prisoner begs for second chance



QUTHING – AS a police officer, Khoaele Thinyane enjoyed the respect of many people in his community and at his workplace who regarded him as a role model and held him in high esteem.
Then, the unthinkable happened. In April 2005, Thinyane shot and killed a man and earned himself a jail term. From village hero, he became a villain overnight.

Now, after spending a decade in jail for the offence, Thinyane is trying to repair his reputation, rebuild his dignity and be seen as a model citizen.
That journey started with the daunting task of being accepted back into a community that once had so much trust in him and felt betrayed when he committed murder.

“Going back to the community that had trust in me before I committed the crime was the biggest challenge,” a remorseful Thinyane told thepost.
He is begging for a second chance, saying he has reformed.

“Prison changes the way a person thinks,” Thinyane said.
Trouble for him started when he was in the line of duty in April 2005 when, together with a superior, took a stock theft suspect to a cattle post up in the mountains on horseback to identify stolen sheep.

When they reached an upper land at the dome of a rock overlooking the cattle post, they saw a shepherd near a stack of firewood. Thinyane shot him.
In court, he argued that the man was fleeing after seeing the police officers. Thinyane claimed he aimed to hit the man on the foot to stop him but because he was not a good marksman he hit the upper body, resulting in the death.

He was charged with murder and sentenced to 10 years in jail but the sentence was reduced to six by the Court of Appeal, which also changed the murder charge to culpable homicide.
He however served four years, from 2009 to 2013.

His days as a cop ended there, and so did the dignity and respect he enjoyed from the community he served in Thaba-Tseka.

He embraced his situation, hoping to rebuild his life after being released from prison.
“Once I was in prison, I realised that I needed to embrace the things that I cannot change and seek ways to adapt to the situation. The plans one had for their lives totally change since the thinking capacity is now different,” he said.

He reminisced on his prison days.

“The first thing that will make one feel that life in prison is not easy is being welcomed with some trousers that have no pockets, torn jerseys and shoes without shoelaces,” he said.
Thinyane said a sad feeling engulfed him when he left his family, friends, and his community knowing that he would only be back with them after a long time.

“Visitors were limited to weekends or holidays,” he said.
Thinyane talked about how cold prison was during winter.

“Being locked at 3pm only to be let out of the cells the following morning was unbearable at first,” he said.
The first shock at night was sleeping on a thin mattress. “I thought about my bed at home in Mafeteng where I had left my sweet comfort. It really hurt.”

Another thing that bothered him was “the different people with different attitudes” which he had to learn to share space with.

“One would be placed in the same cell with a gangster, very harmful people who want you to live the way they want,” he said.
He said prison warders sometimes ill-treat prisoners for no apparent reason, especially when they have their own issues at their homes.

Thinyane said he accepted that his freedom had been taken away when he was shackled on both legs during his visit to a hospital when he was sick.

Finally in 2013, the prison nightmare ended. But he had another mountain to climb – rebuilding his life and being accepted back into the community

Back in his community, some people saw him as a dangerous man who was unsuitable to socialise with them.

Some looked at him as a man who had sex with other men merely because of the widespread belief of rampant homosexuality in prison. He knew regaining acceptance would be difficult even when he was about to be released from jail.

“Thinking that everyone respected you but it is going to be different when you come back made me worry a lot. But then I came back to my senses to be focused. As an individual one has to accept the situation so that it would not deeply affect you,” he said.

Acceptance and taking responsibility is the best healer, Thinyane said.
“Take full responsibility for your actions so that when you come back you can apologise to everyone that you wronged,” he said.

He said some people in his village have accepted him, considering that he committed the crime on duty not as a delinquent.
On the other hand, he said some were unforgiving.

He remembers an incident in 2017 when he was offered a job.
“But some people started talking saying why is a former prisoner getting ahead of more deserving people who were still jobless,” he recalled.

Thinyane said when a crime such as rape happens in his village and the criminal is not found, some people start linking him to the deed merely because he is an ex-prisoner.
“Trying to convince people that you are a different person is a difficult thing,” he said.

He said one has to exercise patience and ‘remember that they have to be present for a family they once left a long tie ago’.
Now an active member of the Crime Prevention, Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Ex-prisoners Association which helps counsel former convicts, Thinyane is hopeful that the future is bright.

“Everything will be okay, it’s a matter of time,” he said, forcing a smile.

Sebabatso Mothabeng

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