Every parent has the best at heart for their children, no matter how poor or rich parents could be. They will always do their best for their children to be the best they could be in life, by giving them the kind of education they never had and teaching their children good morals. But at times, the choices we make in life hurt the ones that believe in us. Being born in a farm or town does not make one less fortunate or better in anyway.

I was born and raised in a farm near Cradock in the Eastern Cape, but later moved-on to stay at Graaff-Reinet. I am the second eldest among four children from my parents. With a little income and no formal education my parents sent us all to school so that we could be educated. When I was doing standard 9 (now Grade 11) I dropped out of school as I thought I was man enough and ready to work for my own income.

Most of my friends were already working during that time and were able to buy clothes by themselves while I had to wait till December for new clothes. And I also got little attention from the ladies compared to my working friends. I guess this is what is called peer-pressure. But I’m glad because this peer-pressure did not force me to go and commit crime to earn money. It did not take me long to get work.

I was working at Sante Sana Game Reserve. And soon I was at the same level with my friends. I could now buy clothes anytime I wanted. Sooner I saw drinking and smoking as the coolest things to do with my friends. There was no-way I was going to be left out, so I started drinking, and would spend almost all my money on alcohol. At times I’d even go to work while under the influence of alcohol, but made it a point that my boss never found out.

Like everyone else who is not supposed to drink alcohol at work or go to work drunk, I started doing things I knew very well I was not allowed to do. My boss soon found out of my wrong doings and warnings followed. I think my boss always believed that I would change my ways, because even after many warnings I still had a job.

In 2003 I mis-used my boss’ trust in me. My boss and his wife were to go away for the weekend, and it was my weekend in. They left on Friday, and there were two guys who were supposed to be off, but asked Mr Richard (our boss) to work for that weekend as they wanted some extra money. Their request was granted.

Since they were not working on that Friday they went to town and their families to give their families some cash. So when I knocked off at five, the guys were already back from town, and they had alcohol and dagga with them. Since the other people were already gone home, with no one to see or report on us, we drank and smoked the night away.

No one wanted to sleep and felt that we needed more alcohol and dagga.

Under our intoxicated conditions, myself and the other guy, decided to take the works motor bikes and drove more than 50km to town. Our plan was to be back before the people at the farm report for duty in the morning, but then things didn’t go according to plan.

By the time we had to go back the bike I was riding would not start. It would only start when I kick-started it and I would cover about 200 meters then it would cut-off. My friend rode off on his bike leaving me behind. The people from the farm found out because my friend arrived late and they saw him. They asked him about my whereabouts and he told them where I was.

Not knowing what to do or what might have happened to me, they called Mr Richard and narrated the whole story to him. So he had to cut his weekend get-away and attend our foolish matter. Our foolish joy-rides cost us our jobs, plus I was already on my final warning. I went back to stay with my parents who at the time had moved back to Cradock. My problems started to pile-up when my girlfriend fell pregnant, because I had to start looking for another job as I wanted to raise my child on my own.

I did not see myself as a person who would go back to former employers and beg for my job. I did not want to swallow my pride. Instead, I chose to go to the big city of Bloemfontein in the Free State to search for work. From the farm to the city, I thought I had nothing to lose. As soon as I arrived in Bloemfontein I was arrested for a crime I did not commit.

In 2009 I was found guilty without any evidence linking me to this case, and was incarcerated to 17 years imprisonment. And then I was sent to the infamous private prison of Mangaung (G4S) here in Bloemfontein.

Being in an environment I’m not used to, my thoughts flooded by many things. I thought of committing suicide or joining one of the gangs in prison just to survive. So I had to make a choice, a choice that would forever change my life. I decided against committing suicide or joining one of the prison gangs.

In prison people live by the choices that make them worse or better people. So I did some introspection.

After that I did what I should have done a long time ago; I swallowed my pride and wrote a letter to my former employers. It was not easy as I thought they would want nothing to do with me after what I did to their trust. It is true that people you would expect to kick you when you down, they are the ones who will lift you up. Their response gave me hope, because they gave me, and still are giving me, all the support I need.

What pains me is that there are many young people out there who misuses their parents’ trust and drop-out of school because of the choices they make, then hide this behind peer-pressure. There are still people who take their jobs for granted because they are trusted so much. My ex-employers gesture has taught me to ask for help when in need. Prison itself has taught me about choices, trust and the love of family.

Today I am a better person than I was before and I know where to go once I am realised from prison.

The family of Sante Sana Game Reserve has taught me a lesson I so needed in life. Yes, peer-pressure will always be there, but we always have choices. Most important I have learnt that we all have people who believe in us. For me it’s my parents, the Viljoens family and above all, God. Because God has never been impressed with strength or self-sufficiency. In fact He is drawn to people who are weak and admit it.