Wesley Theko Thoabala from Wembley Homeless Shelter watering flowers

By Tendamudzimu Goza

  • Wesley Theko Thoabala, a 44-year-old former criminal, has undergone complete rehabilitation after spending seven years in prison for armed robbery and car theft.
  • Despite his troubled past, Wesley has turned his life around and now resides in a shelter funded by the Gauteng Department of Social Development at Wembley Stadium in Turffontein.
  • Through determination and hard work, Wesley has secured a job as a domestic worker in Soweto and is committed to saving money to repair the rooms damaged during a tragic fire, aiming to reconcile with his parents and rebuild his life.

Wesley Theko Thoabala is a 44-year-old former criminal who is currently fully rehabilitated after spending seven years in prison. 

His story begins when he was growing up in Orlando East, Soweto, an environment that had a significant impact on his upbringing. According to Wesley, when he was young, he made a lot of bad friends and wrong choices. He adapted to a lifestyle that required him to do anything that gave him money, and some of these things included getting involved in crimes such as armed robberies and car theft. As fate would have it have it for anyone who engages in such crimes, he was arrested for armed robbery in 2007 and spent 4 years awaiting trial.

Wesley shared his story during the unveiling of the mobile showers project for the homeless by the Gauteng Department of Social Development at Wembley Stadium in Turffontein last Friday. 

“I ended up in prison because of the bad choices I made when I was young and reckless, and reality kicked in when I was sentenced to 15 years in prison,” he said. During his time in prison, Wesley regretted the choices he made and decided to acknowledge his wrongdoings. He changed his life by staying out of conflict with the law and serving his time as expected, his good behaviour led to him being granted parole in 2018 after serving just seven years and six months of his 15 years in prison. 

“Coming out of prison on parole, I realised the time I had wasted from my life and tried to establish myself, but it was hard since I went back to live at home, in an environment that still had a stigma with my history,” said Wesley. 

While he was at home, a tragedy hit when the backroom he was living in at home caught fire. Even though he still does not know the cause of the fire, he felt responsible. As a result, he moved out and went stay at different friends’ places, ultimately, ending up in the streets where he started to use drugs such as crystal meth and rock to deal with his pain. 

This made him sick, and he ended up in the hospital, where he met a social worker who helped him deal with his substance abuse problem and took him to a Social Development funded shelter at Wembley, where he is currently residing. He has now found a job as a domestic worker in Soweto. He goes every weekend to do his job of cleaning the house and yard, washing clothes, and taking care of the children staying there.

He expresses his commitment to diligently save funds to return home and take accountability for repairing the rooms damaged under his supervision. Subsequently, he aims to mend his relationship with his parents.

Wesley is currently a role model to other young homeless people staying in the shelter, due to his good behaviour and being useful to the facility by helping to take care of the property.

Wesley said he would volunteer to clean the newly launched mobile showers for the homeless as a sign of appreciation for the good work done by the Department of Gauteng Social Development, “I am very grateful to the Gauteng Government for taking good care of us homeless people,” said Wesley.

Picture by Lehlohonolo Khumalo

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