The once infamous group of gangsters confessed that poverty that troubled their families steered them into criminal activities.
The thugs who took a turn to rinse their sins, adhering to the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF)’s advice for atonement at the barracks told this publication that they turned to criminality after facing harsh nights of starvation.
Now as a result of the LDF’s efforts of reforming the street gangs with close association with and owing allegiance to prison-based gangsters’ syndicate identifying with different numbers (Manomoro), positivity has yielded as the youngsters have embarked on economic and poverty alleviating initiatives of business to better their lives.
Thabang Matsie, a 21-year-old who is one of the former gang members, said he was surviving the peril of poverty by pick-pocketing and robbing people. He said he joined into the thug life due to poverty that raided his home.
“I realised that my family was suffering and wanted to help so I saw the opportunity as to join the gangs so that I can be able to steal from people and help my family,” he said, adding that he was recruited into the movement in 2019 and was part of the 24-number-gang until they were taken-in by the army for reforming last year. Likewise, Bokang Khaile (20) shared the same sentiments that he was compelled to join the gangs due to poverty.
The duo is among those who have repented and embarked in a detergents manufacturing business. The cooperative is established by 12 people being two girls and ten boys mostly from the military rehabilitation initiative.
According to Matsie, they started their business in November 2021 after receiving financial assistance from the Lesotho Driving Church Peace Plan. He said they received training at the Barracks and expertise on how to manage money and grow their businesses.
“We have already manufactured our products and are in the process of getting our license so we can start working and making money,” he said.
Makoanyane Tree Corporative Society which helped to turn the once hoodlums to better heights said they are eager to change more lives.
Matsie said he is willing to take their business to the next level of success.
“I want to grow financially so much that I can help my parents, I also want to help the needy people who are living in the streets so that they will not get involved in crime in any way,” he said.
Principal Management Consultant at Lesotho Driving Church Peace Plan Dr Akinanam Fidelis Esenjor said, their interest is to develop them, more especially when they have been in LDF mind rehabilitation. He said the organisation has invested over M20 000 on the manufacturing of the products.
“We are working with the military in shaping the future of these kids. We actually believe they are not criminals from the core, and that they were just influenced by hunger. We are therefore working with them not hoping to get anything in return we just want to change their lives for better,” he said.
He mentioned that during his visit to the homes of these kids he nearly wept as he saw how poor most of them are. Adding that some of them do not even have parents they were trying to get something out of crime because they did not know what to do to put bread on the table.
“We invited some of the ministries when we were celebrating the discharge of the kids after the production took off but none of them showed up, we did not get any reply as to why they did not come. We believe that this issue is a national issue that needs to be attended by all stakeholders in Lesotho particularly the government institutions but none showed interest,” he said.
Esenjor further said the journey is beginning so they are going to walk with the youths until they have established a huge corporative that can give jobs to people and help them prevail over poverty.
He said they believe that they need to be monitored even after the business has taken-off so that they can manage the business to growth and change the lives of people around them.
Mateboho Matsie, who is Thabang’s guardian, said she never knew him as a criminal because he was always very respectful to her even though he used to arrive home late every day. She said when he began to dropout of school; he told them that he was helping people carry their heavy bags in order to make money not knowing that he was a criminal.
“We thank LDF for what they did to my boy, he seems to be more responsible and all he is talking about lately is on about his business and getting a job,” she said.
Makoanyane Free Corporate Society was created for Basotho who are neglected and considered criminals. The cooperative produces inter alia; bleach, dish washer, hand wash and car gel, which will soon be available to the market outside.