So yesterday I went to Witbank to interview Richard Ngoma’s family and work colleges. The drive was going very well at the beginning until I realized this actually meant I had to go to Witbank, instead of the main offices of Khulisa in Rosebank.
The error came about because I had ASSuME’d that I would be meeting Richard at the same venue where I had previously met him.
Of course this was an incredibly stupid ASSumtion to make.
Nevertheless, after a two hour drive I met up with Richard in his real offices in the city. The interviews revealed some unexpected sides of Richards character, namely that everyone had been genuinely surprised when they found out that he was a former prisoner. This set my alarm bells ringing. I mean after all what should a former prisoner be like?
This I believe is one of the core issues why the reintegration process is so unsuccessful. Read more about the causes and you find that stigmatization and fears of truth come into question a lot.
In Richards case, you find that he feels like he needs to prove himself to everyone around him all the time for instance to justify his presence at work rather than say someone who does not have a criminal record.
However when you talk to his peers they seem to hold him in high regard with little to no concern about his former life. It seems this is an issue of self perception.
This then leads me to another question. Who is it that helps to keep him motivated? Richard attributes this to his family and his girlfriend as well as his own determination to reconcile for his past mistakes.
It seems that a strong social backbone is a core stabilizer to Richard’s success. Should there be more family relationship-type building programmes that can help future prisoners survive the outside world? I think Richard would say yes. That and improving ones self-motivation.
In case you have gotten this far, more of my fantastic advent continues.
After a 45 minute drive to get to Ngoma’s family, I suddenly realized that I had no airtime. This became incredibly relevant on route home at 20h23 and 43s when I realized that I would not have enough petrol to make it and that I only had R40 in my wallet. Yes that gave me 3.85 liters to make it back, which I did. But just. I hope there are more petrol stations that actually have petrol in them, since the truck driver strike is still going on, or else I won’t be going in to the Vuvuzela newsroom for a while. #vuvuindepth crisis averted.