The difficult life of parolees

Two parolees, who were gang members, were shot in two separate incidents in recent weeks.

A 33-year-old man was shot in the back of his head on an open field, near Tafelberg Street, in Tafelsig, on Sunday April 8, at 8.33pm; while another 27-year-old man was shot in the face on a field near Capricorn Street in Rocklands, on Monday April 16, at 8.35pm.

Captain Ian Williams, Mitchell’s Plain police station spokesman, said both incidents were gang-related but police did not suspect the murders were linked.

He said the 27-year-old was a gang member and had allegedly argued with some people earlier that evening. No arrests have been made.

“The community can help by providing information to police and cooperating with investigations,” he said.

Contact investigating officer, Detective Constable Jesse Phillips, from Mitchell’s Plain Serious and Violent Crime Unit on 082 777 8076 if you have any information or phone 086 001 0111 or send SMS to 32211.

Captain Williams also urged the community to join local safety structures such as the Neighbourhood Watch, sub-forums and street committees.

“People can also contact their respective sector commanders with information. All information will be strictly confidential,” he said.

Mervin Lewis, 48, who was released from prison 19-years ago, spoke to the Plainsman on Friday April 20. He said it was tough to be back home.

“I live under difficult circumstances, people label you when you come from prison. Some people in the community don’t want you to come back home. I face a lot of challenges.

“It is a journey. When you do good, they still remember the bad things,” he said.

Mr Lewis said parolees and ex-convicts were challenged daily. “It is difficult to find employment because you have a criminal record. You have to restore relationships with your family and the community,” he said.

Mr Lewis said he steered away from people who had been to prison. “Most of them are either back in prison or they were killed,” he said.

He said there were no restorative programmes for ex-offenders in Mitchell’s Plain.

He now works at Haven’s Shelter, in Woodlands. He also keeps himself busy with church activities, while trying to start an organisation to prevent youth from going to prison.

Mr Lewis said he attended programmes at the National Institute for Crime and the reintegration of Offenders (NICRO) but that was not enough. “You need your family’s support. You need to be able to talk to people and they must know that you did your time,” he said.

Nicro’s Mitchell’s Plain office closed at the end of last year because of lack of funding.

Soraya Solomon, Nicro chief executive officer, said whether you are a parolee in Mitchell’s Plain or anywhere in the country, the challenges remained the same.

“Mitchell’s Plain has high levels of crime and gangsterism, and as a result parolees who are gang members most times are released back into the community and join their gang again. The cycle of crime and violence continues,” she said.

Ms Solomon said Nicro is working on a strategy that will enable community organisations to support the reintegration of parolees.

Having been in the field of crime prevention and reintegration for more than three decades, Ms Solomon said: “Nothing has changed.”

She said the country continued to talk about the problem, with no vision or creative solution to resolve crime. “Most NGOs are scaling down or shutting their doors because of the lack of funding.

“How do we address the effective reintegration of ex-prisoners, when the resources are not available to deal with the magnitude of the problem,” she asked.

Ms Solomon called for a political will in order to address the reintegration of ex-prisoners into society to reduce the rate of recidivism.

“We all know that this is not only the government’s problem, it is our problem. Only by working together, that is the government, communities and civil society will we be able to achieve success in the rehabilitation and reintegration of ex-prisoners,” she said.

“During the height of apartheid we mobilised communities to lead the struggle for freedom and we were successful in achieving a democratic South Africa.

Ms Solomon said there were no quick fixes, considering the high levels of gang activity, crime and violence on the Cape Flats.

“We need to work much harder in mobilising ourselves in a way that will support parolees and many youth who are at risk to change their behaviour and become productive members of society,” said Ms Solomon.