Xolani Mtshali leaves life of crime behind and pursue life as a carpenter and musical artist

Xolani Simphiwe Mtshali is using his hands to make a living after a long life of crime.

The 37-year-old changed his life around to pursue life as a carpenter and musical artist.

Born in KwaNongoma, he migrated to Ermelo in 2012.

With a life filled with jail convictions, his move to the town was to begin afresh, but trouble followed him.

“I was a terror when I was growing and lived a life of crime on the streets,” Xolani said.

Having been in and out of prison on numerous occasions, he was eventually sentenced to 13 years imprisonment for armed robbery in Johannesburg.

It was there he took up carpentry classes in the various fields of study the correctional services provided.

After serving his sentence, his brother took him in and he was finally settling into a normal life.

However, he went back to prison after an altercation with community members in Enyibe, a township in Ermelo.

Trying to shirk off the label of being a convict was hard for Xolani and it didn’t help matters that he had an anger problem, stemming from his struggles growing up.

“I blamed my parents, my situation at the time and people surrounding me and did not see that I am the one to blame.”

With all the criminal records piling up, his family eventually disowned him.

He picked up the pieces of his life, did anger management classes in prison and attended counselling sessions to rebuild a tormented life.

Owner of Umhlolo Productions, he uses handmade tools to craft wooden objects from left-over timber from a local timber company.

The company has expanded to include a furniture division, where Xolani and his business partner and friend, Smanga Given Maranue, construct and install built-in cupboards and wardrobes to customers in Enyibe.

A creative all-rounder, Xolani is a musician in his own right, having recorded and released songs locally in the hip-hop music genre.

With a lilting voice that captures audiences, singing is his refuge from all the storms in his life.

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Xolani had to make do with owning his business because with a criminal record, he is way down the pecking order of employable people.

He hopes to expand his business and has a dream of owning his own multimedia company one day.

“I want to do it all.

Documentaries, write books, produce songs and release a movie or two,” he said.

An advocate for human rights, he wants to shed light on the cruelties one faces when imprisoned, but was quick to say it is not all bad.

“I came out of prison with numerous certificates which have helped me in establishing myself in the civilian world.”

Once a pariah in his family and community, Xolani has mended bridges with his close ones.

His life in prison may have everlasting effects, but he has a positive outlook on life and believes anything is possible if one puts one’s mind to it.

“I advise anybody against the life of crime.

“It is not worth the heartache.

“I am testimony to that.”

 

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  AUTHOR
Amanda Mthembu
Journalist

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