Forgiveness is offender’s Mandela Day wish

18 July 2014

Thirty-year-old Sibusiso Bhengu, an offender serving his sentence at Leeuwkop Correctional Centre in Johannesburg, says he is glad he had an opportunity to interact with the outside world on Mandela Day.

Bhengu and other offenders from the prison joined Deputy Justice and Correctional Services Minister Thabang Makwetla, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, Sun International CEO Graeme Stephens, Miss South Africa Rolene Strauss in planting a vegetable garden as part of their 67 minutes for Madiba on Friday.

Bhengu, who is currently serving the last month of his three-year sentence after being convicted for fraud, pleaded with South Africans to follow in the footsteps of Nelson Mandela by learning to forgive former offenders.

“Since being in the correctional centre I have changed and I have been corrected. I ask to be given a second chance in society. I understand that committing fraud was wrong.”

He said he had acquired skills in agriculture while carrying out his sentence at the facility in northern Johannesburg, and would like to use them when he is released.

Motshekga said Madiba had taught the country the important lessons of forgiveness and discipline. “It is important to forgive those who have wronged us. As South Africans we should not judge anyone, but rather give them a second chance.”

Motshekga added that Madiba had kept a vegetable garden while in prison, using this as an opportunity to interact with other prisoners involved in the liberation struggle.

The United Nations officially declared 18 July as Nelson Mandela International Day in November 2009, recognising Mandela’s “values and his dedication to the service of humanity” and acknowledging his contribution “to the struggle for democracy internationally and the promotion of a culture of peace throughout the world”.

Celebrated across the globe in honour of the late statesman’s birthday on 18 July, the day gives everyone the opportunity to emulate Mandela’s role as public servant though volunteering and community service.