Vicky Somniso-Abraham
2 minute read
17 May 2015
11:15 am

Ex-convict’s new way of life

Vicky Somniso-Abraham

Every Sunday Daniel Thibedi packs vegetables onto his wheelbarrow and travels the streets of Tshing in Ventersdorp, North West, looking for customers.

GOING STRAIGHT. Daniel Thibedi hard at work. Picture: Refilwe Modise

In the townships, a Sunday meal without what people refer to as seven colours (beetroot, pumpkin, potatoes, carrots, cabbage or spinach, as well as meat and rice) is considered inadequate.

Former prisoner Thibedi, 35, who has been convicted of house-breaking and theft, recognised this as a major business opportunity. His strategy has been successful and the business is growing.

In 2008, Thibedi received a 10-year prison term, which was reduced to five.

“I sell vegetables, fruits, sweets and Simba chips from my spaza shop,” he said.

“I encouraged other ex-prisoners to work with me and to contribute R500 each, buy vegetables, put them on our wheelbarrows and sell to the community. But they were embarrassed to join me.

“So I do this alone every Sunday because people buy vegetables mostly on this day.”

Thibedi, who has two children, also repairs shoes.

“I was taught to make prisoners’ clothes and shoes with a machine while I was in prison. When I left prison, I got a job and saved R4 000 to buy a machine I could use to repair shoes.

“The machine operates with electricity, but then I don’t have electricity as I live in a shack. I was told they cannot install electricity for me because this is an informal settlement.”

So, Thibedi repairs shoes by hand which, he said, was “a big problem.”

Thibedi completed matric behind bars and got experience as a tutor. “I was one of the top achievers as I obtained three [matric] distinctions in ancillary healthcare, travel and tourism and mathematics. I didn’t have time to play. I spent most of my time studying. I was a tutor in prison.

“I wasted lots of years committing crimes and crime doesn’t pay because you end up in jail. I don’t want to commit crime again.”