Mandela Month: inmates renovate homes


2 July 2015

Mandela Month acts of goodwill have started across South Africa and on 1 July in Morning Star, Cape Town, a group of inmates alongside the Department of Human Settlements started the renovation and building of 16 homes in the township.

Deputy Minister Zou Kota-Fredericks, in partnership with the Department of Correctional Services, and other stakeholders visited the site where prisoners put their handyman skills to use in building homes and renovating existing structures. The inmates are from the Goodwood and Pollsmor correctional facilities.

Tears of joy

Morning Star resident Simon Filander was at a loss for words when the inmates and the department showed up on his doorstep, ready to get to work.

“This makes things easier,” he said. “There is no word in the dictionary that I can look up to explain how grateful we are that this is happening to us.

“I have tears waiting to come rolling down my cheeks, but not tears of sadness, but tears of joy.”

Community members chose the Filanders as one of 16 families to benefit from the initiative because of the severity of their socio-economic situation – Filander and his wife are both unemployed, he is disabled and his eight-year-old child is wheelchair-bound and suffers from cerebral palsy.

Everyone benefits

“We are here today to renovate these houses here in Morning Star, an area where residents have been living in asbestos-built homes for many years,” Kota-Fredericks said.

The community will benefit from having better homes, and it will help prisoners with artisan skills to give back to the community. It is seen as a positive step towards their rehabilitation and reintegration.

Manelisi Hlakuva, an inmate at Goodwood Correctional Centre, was glad to be part of the initiative.

“We are here to help this community also in honour of the late Tata [Mandela],” he explained. “He also valued helping other people and we also decided it was good for us to make a positive contribution to the community.

“As part of rehabilitation, we are aware of the mistakes we have made but we hope that our contribution will also help re-integrate us in the community,” he said.

The legacy

Mandela Month is commemorated annually in tribute to Nelson Mandela during July, the month of his birth. On his birthday, 18 July, South Africans – and indeed all people around the world – are called to dedicate 67 minutes of their time to give back through initiatives to help improve the lives of people less fortunate. The United Nations has declared the day International Nelson Mandela Day in his memory.