Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Michael Masutha, hands over the keys to her house to Selina Mafisa. The house in White City Soweto was burnt down, leaving the family destitute. Picture: Nokuthula Mbatha/African News Agency
Johannesburg - Grandmother Selina Mafisa might not have everything she needs to provide for her family this Christmas, but for the first time in over a year she will be able to put a roof over their heads.

But the new family house is no ordinary home. In a bid to rectify their wrongdoings, a group of parolees came together to rebuild the burnt Soweto house Mafisa and her family can now call home.

They spent hours of their time, energy and unique skills to ensure that the house was ready for the family to enjoy this festive season.

“We don’t have everything we need but at least we will all have somewhere to sleep now,” Mafisa told The Saturday Star during the handover of the house in White City Jabavu.

She recalled how flames ripped through their previous house in September last year, leaving them destitute.

Together with her three grandchildren, she was forced to live in a garage in a backyard for about 15 months.

But after the parolees’ public penance, they can now be comfortable in their new house.

“The thing that we are most excited about is that we will now have a safe and comfortable place to sleep in,” said Mafisa.

Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, advocate Michael Masutha, together with Gauteng Community Safety MEC Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane, handed the house over to the Mafisa family yesterday.

Salena Mafisa's house was refurbished by parolees
Salena Mafisa's house was refurbished by parolees, as an early Christmas gift to the destitute family. Picture: Nokuthula Mbatha/ANA

The grandmother’s eyes were filled with tears as the two cut the red ribbon, which was propped on the wooden door, and officially welcomed her into her new home.

Dozens of neighbours gathered to cheer as Mafisa was handed a house key.

The offender labour programme, which involves parolees refurbishing homes for families in need, is an initiative between the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) and the Social Development Department.

Minister Masuthu told the gathering that this act was not meant to glorify crime, as they were cognisant of the pain of victims.

“We are not here to say people who do crime are saints, we know the pain criminals leave behind still affects victims long after the deed is done.”

He said this project was a way for parolees to do their part to give back to society.

“It is their way of saying that through my hands, I can make a difference in someone else’s life, and they can acknowledge that they have caused other people pain.”

Masuthu added that other parolees have been involved in several other community projects, such as cleaning up schools.

He said that none of the parolees who were involved in these projects were paid for their labour.

Saturday Star