GEORGE NEWS - "Someone else raped her. I know who it was. It wasn't me." These are the words of Siyabulela Thesani, a convicted sexual offender who, according to him, was wrongfully convicted.
In 2011 Thesani was sentenced in Mossel Bay to 18 years direct imprisonment.
The man who, according to him, framed him, is currently serving 40 years in a maximum prison for murder and rape.
George Herald paid Thesani and other sex offenders a visit at the George Correctional Services.
This is his story that forms part of a series of interviews journalist Kristy Kolberg conducted with sexual offenders behind bars.
According to Thesani, no DNA evidence was found on the victim to link him to the crime, yet he was sentenced to nearly two decades behind bars.
"I will clear my name when I get out. I can't fight it from inside," he says.
In 2010 he was out on parole after being in jail for housebreaking and theft when he and a friend got involved in a fight with another man near Asla Park in Mossel Bay. "We were on our way to buy dagga when we were approached by a man and his girlfriend. My friend knew the man."
According to Thesani, this was the woman who later accused him of raping her.
Thesani's friend was stabbed in the stomach during a scuffle between the three men. However, the wound was not serious enough for him to be hospitalised.
"We chased after the man, but we couldn't catch him. He knew that if we caught him we would hurt him. We left his girlfriend on the scene and chased after him. When we couldn't find him, we went to another friend's house," he says.
The arrest and prison life
The following day Thesani was arrested on suspicion of rape. "The victim's boyfriend, the same man who stabbed my friend, wanted us in jail. He told his girlfriend to tell the police that I raped her. He knew if we catch him there would be trouble," he says.
In 2011 Thesani was found guilty of rape and sentenced. In jail he became part of a number gang, the 28s. "If you don't belong to a gang in prison, you're going to have a hard time," he says.
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The idea of freedom recently became a reality for Thesani. About two years ago he started cleaning up his act. He has since joined programmes offered by George Correctional Services and furthered his studies. Though still part of a gang, Thesani says he's not so "actively involved" anymore.
"The only way you can really leave a gang is if you are dead. I'm still part of a gang, but I told them that I want to make good with my life now. Three years ago, two gang members were killed in a prison in Mossel Bay. I want to change the thoughts of gang members."
He comes from a good home, but only met his father when he was 11 years old. "Growing up my father bought me clothes from Woolworths. He was a pastor but because my mother fell pregnant with me when she was only 18 and they weren't married, her family rejected him."
Thesani says that allowing people to influence him and making "wrong" friends contributed to his life of crime.
"At school I befriended gangsters. I started drinking, smoking and doing drugs."
Shortly he would regularly be in and out of jail. "I've been shot a couple of times," he says, standing up and showing the scars that the bullets left. One, he says, went right through his stomach.
"I moved to Mossel Bay because I became a target in PE and I knew that if I didn't change my life, or leave, I would be killed."
Prison a dangerous place
It is easy to make a weapon in prison. "Three weeks ago, there was some tension between the gangs. When the guards did a search, they found plenty of knives. Some are made from the steel bars the beds are made of. Others are made from toothbrushes or broomsticks."
Thesani says that the most dangerous time in prison is after 16:00. Then there are only a few guards on duty. "They don't know what goes on in the cells. Tomorrow they open your cell and you're dead. The best way to protect yourself in prison is not to be here in the first place," he says.