Thursday, March 23, 2023

Former jailbird forms rehabilitation organisation for criminals

Some years ago, he spent his days as a hairdresser from morning to early evening. Then he shifted at night to gigging, robbing someone’s here business or home there, or car racketing.

He lived an extravagant lifestyle from his ‘business’ and this earned him a good number of followers. He had too much joy to detect regretful challenges ahead. He got a four year prison term, which seems to have acted as a ‘blast furnace’ that has transformed him into a ‘fine ore’.

Now Mothei Sejakgomo, 36, has taken a broad step forward and formed an Association called, The Botswana Institute of Rehabilitation and Integration of Offenders (BIRRO). He is its chairman.

Through this organisation he more than 100 other members are sensitising people about the dangers of committing crime. Their mode of communication is usually drama. They also conduct workshops through backup of government departments and Non Governmental Organisations.

The organisation’s objectives are: To provide public prevention education; advocate for criminal suspects, inmates, ex-convicts and victims of crime; to provide young people with educational information on consequences of committing crime; to provide young people with educational information on consequences of alcohol and drug abuse and HIV and AIDS.

The formation of the organisation, Sejakgomo said, was triggered by his challenges of going in and out of prison.

“As ex-convicts we are often discriminated against because the society does not trust us. No matter how you may try to make a difference in your life or other people’s, people will always find ways to purge responsibility from you,” he said.

Sejakgomo explained that they try to reach their objectives through partnering with other human rights stakeholders like the Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) and Botswana Centre for Human rights ÔÇôDitshwanelo.

Together they advocate for criminal suspects by helping them fill bail forms and other related services like mitigation. Here they help by writing letters to the courts of law. They also help with engagement of lawyers.

“We have had 15 criminal cases, five of which we have successfully dealt with and we are still tackling the remaining 10. We visit inmates and encourage them to start reaching out the people they wronged with the view to prepare for reconciliation,” he said.

“Reconciliation is one of the most important spices of life that are not easy to apply. It is equally one of our toughest tasks to tackle as an organisation. Take the case of John Kalafatis for instance. Revisit our objectives and you will find that he can be a member of our organisation. So are members of his family. Likewise, his murderers are, by virtue of having executed him; members of this organisation. So are their families. How do you bring about reconciliation here? Even if it could be ignored, the need for reconciliation is a must if the gruesome incidence of his departure from life should be forgotten about,” he said.

Talking of reconciliation turns him to President Lt Gen. Ian Khama’s pardoning power. In as much as he appreciates the president’s effort of pardoning and highly commends him for exercising his powers, Sejakgomo bemoans the fact that there are no structures in place for the initiative to bear fruits for nation building.

He attributes the higher number of male prisoners to female prisoners to the lack of education on crime and its consequences. Many people who became successful after prison sentences are reluctant to share their experiences. Sharing could have gone a long way in mending lifestyles of other people. Another reason he finds as contributory factor is that of boy child upbringing. They grow up encouraged to be fearless, reserved emotionally and talking little.

He envisions his organisation having expanded to being international one in five years.


Read this week's paper