TWO of the offenders released from the Correctional Centre in Pretoria on the special remission of sentence programme announced by President Jacob Zuma earlier this year said they wanted to make a difference in their communities.

Romeo Vilakazi of Mamelodi and Mthuthuzeli Gontshi of Soweto, who were among the 303 offenders released yesterday, said they had obtained skills while in prison, which would help them make a difference in their communities.

Vilakazi, who had been in prison since 2001 for house robbery, said being in prison “taught me to know myself and to respect other people”.

“I am going to make a difference in my community with the skills I learned in prison,” he said. He had taught other prisoners carpentry, a skill he would put to good use.

Gontshi, who was sentenced to 14 years imprisonment for hijacking in 2005, said: “I will be going out there to preach a gospel… that it is not easy inside”. He had passed matric while in prison and would be enrolling for a degree course.

Deputy Minister of Correctional Services Ngoako Ramatlhodi told the offenders that the government expected a lot from them and warned them not to become repeat-offenders.

“Your coming back here will hurt the other offenders’ chances of being released from prison,” said Ramatlhodi.

He appealed to families and members of the community to support the released offenders with their reintegration into society.

“All our efforts to change the behavioural patterns of offenders and to curb recidivism, will not succeed if families of these offenders and communities do not support them,” he said.

A total of 43 789 offenders hade been released from 241 correctional centres since the programme commenced on April 30.

Of these 90 inmates had been re-admitted as reported by the regions (as at June 29), with 20 of them having been re-sentenced by the various courts.