Prison Gave Me My Voice
Just one blunder was enough to send Morwesi Theledi to 10 years in prison. She was four months pregnant and her other son was only six years old. The first two years of her child’s life were spent in prison.
“People think prison is for hardened criminals. Just one wrong decision you make, can land you in jail,” Morwesi of Dube assures.
She was a supervisor at a bank. One of the bank clients started to shower her with gifts worth thousands of Rands. Strangely, the client knew where she lived, her parents, child and what she ate for lunch at work.
Her content life started to wobble when the client made a bizarre demand. “He ordered me to deposit R2, 7 million into his business account. He gave me details of the account I were to steal from, and passwords of two of my colleagues who had the authority to approve such huge amounts. He even ordered me to use a particular computer in the office,” she remembers.
The client threatened to kill her family members if she failed to deposit the money. “I deposited the money out of fear. But after a few minutes, I added a zero to the amount to make it R27 million so that the account could be frozen. It felt bad to steal the money.”
She was investigated and the court handed her 10 years prison term. She was released on parole after six years for good behaviour.
”I am thankful to prison. It gave me enough time to do introspection. I was locked up for about 15 hours a day – alone in my single cell. It taught me respect, discipline, patience and to be content with what I am having. I was shy, now I am outspoken.”
Morwesi is a motivational speaker. She changes people’s lives. This is the promise she made when was still in prison: to come out a better person. The library subdivision of Department of Arts and Culture voted her the Best Public Speaker in 2016 and was also listed No.7 in Top 100 Influential People in South Africa, among other accolades she received.
She conquered stigma that comes with being an ex-convict. She speaks openly about her life. However, Morwesi is concerned about the outside world. “One ex-convict spent time in prison and only committed suicide when she was released. The government lingers criminal records over us, which makes it difficult for us to find jobs, and community stigma. It is like we are sentenced twice,” she states.