Sentenced to 10 years imprisonment after serving 8 years trial without bail, Mashilo Alpheus Kola vowed to leave prison a better man, regardless of the hardship faced while incarcerated for many years inside prison.
Born and bred from a rural village called Seabe, Mpumalanga, the 38 year old is a rehabilitated and dedicated ex con making a difference in people’s lives. At the age 19 in 2003, Kola got arrested for armed robberies, position of unlicensed firearm, position of unlicensed ammunition, discharge of firearm in a public area, house breaking, theft, and murder. Out of the charges against him, he was found guilty on the charges of armed robberies, house breaking and theft, getting acquitted on other charges.
Even though he was arrested on 18 July 2003, Mashilo Kola only got sentenced on 21 January 2011. Like any normal child growing up, Kola lived a normal life until he ventured into the life of crime at an early age up to the point of getting arrested and doing time.
Kola spent 12 years six months inside prison, released on parole 28 November 2015, based on good behaviour. Going back to the same community he hurt, his return was not as smooth. “Well, I could not say they never welcomed me back in a hostile manner, some tried to set traps by provoking in order to retaliate so that I could go back to prison.” He said.
From some of the community members, he managed to get warm welcome and acceptance, however his return came easy because he was mentally, emotionally, and psychologically ready to face his community.
The rehabilitated Kola said, “Knowing who I am, what I want, and how to get what I want, also looking back at those many cruel years inside prison. I told myself I want nothing to do with something that might send me back to prison as I am a changed person who wants to see change in other people.” That’s how the ‘Ex-Con In Action’ organisation was born. With this organisation Kola managed to accomplish a lot in bringing the change he wished for from day one.
Kola managed to bring forth scholarships from a college to help fund youth that needed and still wish to further their studies, he is an activist representing disadvantaged families, mainly focusing on law affairs. His hand is stretched beyond, he also leads a rehabilitation program, being a motivational speaker, particularly speaking at schools as part of his school based crime prevention awareness campaign, “ because the time I got arrested I was still at school doing grade 10.”
With Kola being a busy man, he found three gentlemen who showed dedication, and together they started agricultural work that seeks to create job opportunities, help alleviate poverty while reducing the high crime rate that’s caused by unemployment in many areas, to empower and develop the youth’s responsibility.
Together with other ex-cons, they registered a non-profit organization, called the ‘Ex-Con In Action’. Mashilo Kola is appreciative of how the organization helped people. He was elected as the chairperson of the organization by ex con members, and the chairperson of SANCO within his Ward. “I do get invitations to community meetings to share my opinion regarding community challenges.” He said. ” With the organization, they were able to create” job opportunities, hosted awareness campaigns, participated on national and provincial workshops against domestic violence, women & children abuse and human trafficking.” ‘Ex-Con In Action’ is currently leading a delayed and tampered case of human trafficking that took place in 2001.
Kola may have lived a traumatic life in prison but believes if it was not for prison, he wouldn’t be the man he is today, he says everything in his life transpired for a reason. Even with hard work Kola is doing all his work without assistance from the municipality or government, he uses his own resources to complete his community work.
“Life inside prison was rough, harsh, cruel, and difficult. Where your rights are limited, other rights as considered privileges. A place called “Kwa Mma Ga Mpone”. The first three years I tried committing suicide because when I thought of the long walk to burning hell, being buried alive for life, I couldn’t face it. I told myself that I won’t commit suicide by drinking a poison or hanging myself, I will commit by fighting and stabbing the ones considered most dangerous so that they could stab me until I die. Unfortunately I kept fighting, but no one fought back; it was like I was possessed by the spirit of the unknown.”
To help spread the word on how crime doesn’t pay, Kola has a music video called “Mpotse Nako E Sale Teng ” and is currently working with a script writer to create a stage play. Kola says he is in dire need to write a book that will possibly be turned into a film, and use it as one of his rehabilitation programs, hoping the film will create more job opportunities.
Life in prison was a traumatic one that Kola does not ever want to see himself in, as he recalls how sometimes he would find maize worms in his porridge, where he says one does not have a choice but to eat it in order to not go hungry, “eating pap & two boiled eggs” he said.
During the ordeal, Kola’s mind was running with ideas of how he wants things to be like when he leaves prison. His wish is to “see multipurpose skills workshop, operating on the 10 hectares of land I have under Ex-Con In Action organization that needs to be worked on, to transfer skills and create more stable job opportunities, making a difference in people through life’s experience”
Even after getting his freedom, serving all his prison time was not yet over, he got parole that came with strict terms and conditions. “You’re being prohibited to do certain things without consulting with community corrections, being under supervision and monitored all the time until you finish serving your full sentence as you will still be an inmate. You’re prohibited to consume alcohol, and when you want to go to the shop or rather should I say before you could walk out, you are monitored, you must call the office and report to them where you plan to go, otherwise you’ll be violating the conditions of your parole, and it will lead to you being taken back to prison, to finish your sentence inside.” Explained Kola.
As being said before, he also believes that a boy child growing up without a father is one of the major factors contributing to crime, bullying and the abuse of substance. However, he says domestic violence is another factor, teaching the boy child how problems are solved, through violence. He says there are certain roles that mothers cannot play in a boy child’s life, a role that needs a father or father-figure to fill in showing them how a man should behave.
His advice to youngsters involved in crime is “to focus on their studies and stop committing crime because the consequences of crime, is going to prison, being crippled for life, death and mental problem. Crime Does Not Pay.” He emphasized.