One of Botswana’s well known former boxers, Thuso Khubamang, is on a mission to use sports to rehabilitate prisoners.
Dubbed ‘Scud’ for his missile like fists on opponents in the ring, the former hard hitter has developed a soft spot for those locked up in the country’s jails.
Speaking in an interview with Standard Sport, Khubamang says his passion to help society’s outcasts, like those in prisons, started during his professional boxing days in the United States of America.
“While I was there, we used to visit those incarcerated to help with their rehabilitation through sport; in my case, through boxing. I got to see firsthand how sport can be used as an agent of change on these people,” Scud told Standard Sport.
Khubamang said that, once released, some of the prisoners who trained in boxing went on to represent their country in international competitions, some even going as far as turning into professional boxers. He says upon returning home, he decided to help in the rehabilitation of prisoners through sport.
The former boxer says the objectives of his project is re-instilling in-mates’ self confidence and self worthiness as well as positioning sport, music, dance and education as the best rehabilitation and disciplinary exercise for in-mates.
However, this proved to be a very daunting task in the country due to the negative way prisoners are viewed by the general public.
“When I started the programme back in 2003, it was very difficult as I was not even allowed inside the penitentiary. I had to set up the rings outside the boys’ prison and let them box but could do nothing further,” Khubamang says.
Despite all these challenges, the former hard man persevered and this paid off. Only two years ago, the prison doors literally opened for him as the Department of Prisons and Rehabilitation gave him a go ahead to help and use sports to rehabilitate those incarcerated.
According to Khubamang, this came with the appointment of a new Director at the department who commissioned him to enter the prisons and offer help.
“When I started, the only sport I was using was boxing. Eventually, others also requested to help and codes like football and dancing were added to the programme. We also incorporated music and education in the programme,” Khubamang informed Standard Sport.
He says the reception he gets from convicts is very encouraging and they are keen on coming onboard.
Khubamang is also involved in monitoring and mentoring ex-convicts once they are released. This involves helping them find employment as well as helping them set up businesses, where possible, by taking them to the department of Youth, the Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) and Local Entrepreneurial Agency (LEA) to see how they can help them.
As part of this project, the former boxer, through his company Scud Missile Promotions, will be going on a prisons road show that will take him to the country’s largest penitentiaries in the north of Botswana from the 22nd to the 25th before turning to prisons in the south of the country early next year.
Accompanied by the Department of Youth (and CEDA), the road show will also be used to help teach prisoners entrepreneurial skills to prepare them for life outside the prison walls.
Khubamang told Standard Sport that prisoners deserve a second chance once they have served their sentences and is appealing to society not to shun them as outcasts but to accept them back.
“Another problem these former convicts meet is unemployment. Employers refuse to take these people into their employ once they hear that they are ex-convicts,” Khubamang says.
He added that this snub, coupled with rejection by society, including families and former friends, is the reason behind most convicts turning back to crime after rehabilitation.
Khubamang’s prison road show will take him to Mahalapye, Serowe, Selibe Phikwe and Maun before coming back south where he expects to donate computers to the Boys’ Prison.