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Ex-convict’s anti-crime crusade inspires youth

Solomon Mletyana, who served 28 years in prison for armed robbery and attempted murder, has criss-crossed the country warning pupils in more than 80 schools against a life of crime.
The 71-year-old motivational speaker started his talks in 2001, a few months after he regained his freedom. Since then, he has been on a mission to persuade pupils stay in school instead of choosing a life of crime.
His message is simple: “Crime does not pay and education is the key.”
He tours the country using the little money he makes from crafts.
When Mletyana saw young children in school uniforms smoking in front of adults, it reminded him of how he began smoking dagga and, when needing money to buy some more, he turned to armed robberies in a bid to feed his addiction.
“I decided to start these talks to warn them [youth] about the dangers of smoking,” said Mletyana, adding that he had found God in prison.
He tells pupils about his 28 years behind bars in the hope that they would be discouraged from a life of crime.
“I encourage them to not start – and those who have, to stop. I tell them to listen to their parents and make their parents their best friends because parents won’t lead them astray and will help them focus on education.”
Mletyana said at times he was ridiculed and laughed at by pupils, and sometimes even sworn at.
“Some children swear at me but because I know why I am there, I just carry on. If just one or two listen to me then I have done my part.”
Asked what drove him to continue with his talks, he said had he known better when he was younger he would not have ended up like he did and did not want children to make the same mistakes he had made.
“When you are warning someone about something don’t beat around the bush – just tell it to them as it is. It is better to do something well aware of the consequences, than when you don’t know.
“If I had focused on myself and not been taken up with a life of crime I would have a house, a family and a better life,” he said.
Althorpe College principal Anton Maritz spoke highly of Mletyana.
“The manner in which he spoke was very entertaining. He made the students aware of what happens in a rehabilitation centre and I’m sure that after this talk many of those who are presently involved in such a lifestyle may pause to reconsider their actions.
“I have no doubt his talk will benefit any institution fortunate enough to make use of his services.”
But Mletyana is struggling to continue with the talks as the financial costs of travelling around the country are too high for him. —lisekhom@dispatch.co.za..

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