Lerato Manaka (38) mother of three, a wife, sister, daughter and granddaughter but now known as a crime awareness and crime prevention activist.
Manaka was incarcerated for committing fraud, after she fraudulently stole from her employer. Upon receiving 12 years imprisonment with 4 years suspended sentence, she only served 2 years scoring an early parole due to covid-19 and still on parole until 2023.
Modiehi Mongale foundation is a None Profitable Organisation (NPO) targeting economic issues, high crime rate and high unemployment rate in South Africa amongst ex-offenders. Not getting a second chance from the community when you have a criminal record is not easy, not to mention getting employment.
Because of stigmas, ex-offenders tend to go back to crime due to lack of employment. After being involved in drama and choir that was formed during Manakas incarceration, the initiative to start the Modiehi Mongale foundation came to light, which was not as hard since she was in charge of 240 inmates through Art and Culture. That is where she fell in love with the tremendous amount of talent females had which, giving birth to the campaign outside prison.
Manaka feels communities are not well informed about impacts of crime and rehabilitation. Therefore the campaign educates, in order to form a peaceful community and send the message out that rehabilitated ex-offenders “are changed agents”. The foundation has representatives situated in the Free State, Gauteng, Limpopo, North West and Kwa Zulu Natal, with the hopes of expanding to other provinces throughout the country.
Currently the campaign only works with females as they did not have enough capacity to also open their doors to male ex-offenders but since they are growing, they will open the door for men as of next year. The campaign will again next year do things differently and better, working with those currently in prison, probationers, parolees and ex-offenders, making sure to not exclude anyone in this journey.
More than anything, Modiehi Mongale foundation preaches second chances, as according to Manaka, they paid their debts to society by going into incarceration, she mentions on how correctional service does not just release a prisoner for parole, as there are processes followed and only when you have rehabilitated get an approval for parole.
Manaka says she is now a changed and a different person, not the same as when she got in, that’s why preaching for second chances has a significance to them. With the campaign they provide free education to communities, on crime and second chances. She saw the need to do so after evaluating and coming to the realisation that while imprisoned, they are being provided with food paid for with taxpayers’ money and now gives back by educating people on this certain crime, seeking second chances along the way.
The Modiehi Mongale foundation relies only on sponsorships and donations, urging communities who can to do the same but also value the interest communities’ show and support given to them. What they want to achieve as a long term goal is a socio issue, correctional service does offer assistance but only up to matric and if you want to further your studies one can do so but at your own cost, so the campaign wants to offer learnership programmes under the art umbrella to help equip ex-offenders and prisoners with skills that won’t bring harm to their pockets.
According to Manaka, prison community is a community that is neglected and feels there’s enough support for graduates and noncriminal offenders but none for ex-offenders, which causes many to relapse and head back to crime leading back to prison. The message she wants to send out to those inside, is to know they are not there as punishment but to be corrected as it is a correctional service after all. She would like to remind them the situation is not permanent and they should take the opportunity to learn while they still can.