Lacking a father and born into a poor family, Themba Dhlamini says his frustration at life led to him committing crime from a very early age.
“My mother could not control my life too much as I grew up, and I ended up with the wrong crowd of friends.
“I became general of a gang. I had stars.”
As far as religion went, Themba says, “I only saw as being brought to black people by the whites many years ago, and being a Christian was simply [being] a victim.”
“I believed my ancestors protected me, as I did many bad things in life. God was just a person who lives in heaven, while I was on earth.”
Before he was even an adult, Themba went to prison many times for theft. “I also drank alcohol to prove my strength to fellow gangsters. I drank to celebrate every criminal activity I had done without getting caught by police.”
Most of the time Themba’s criminal convictions resulted in a fine or a suspended sentence, but eventually he was sentenced to six years without any chance of parole.
In prison Themba faced the hardest conditions of his life, and as his mental and physical strength began to fail his attitude towards God began to change.
“I got very sick in prison and I was alone in the intensive care unit. I started to think about changing my life for the better as I had many gangster enemies.
“Being alone in that situation made me think about asking God to save my life.”
Themba began pursuing God by listening at the prison church services and reading a Bible.
“I got to know about Jesus as I read the Bible. There was a pastor who introduced salvation to me as I awaited trial.
“I decided to become a Christian, to not sin any longer, nor steal from other people. I did this because I knew that one day my life would be in danger.
“I had to also quit being a gang leader.
“I became a Christian, and God changed my life a lot, because I no longer had many enemies as I used to have when I was rebelling against God. I don’t think about stealing any more, and I hope to do good for other people.”
Themba advises other prisoners to “seek to know Jesus” as he did.
This is necessary he says, because “life is too short, and if they do not change, Satan will be their god in hell”. •