Gayton McKenzie: Ghanaians have put me to shame

South African motivational speaker and author, Gayton McKenzie, appears to have encountered yet another of life's baffling fixes, [out of prison though], and now he is asking himself if he even needed to have taken to crime at all in the first place.McKenzie did time at the Grootvlei Prison in South Africa's Free State province for bank robbery, but a heroic deed with three other prisoners spared him the remaining eight years of the 15-year jail term.And visiting Ghana for the first time as a member of a sports and education foundation team at the request of former Asante Kotoko and King Faisal CEO, Herbert Mensah, McKenzie dug deep into his person Friday evening and intoned that Ghanaians have put him to shame.His reason? Gayton told that since arriving in Ghana on Wednesday, he has seen “absolute poverty here”, “un-be-lie-vably pessimistic people,” “a proud but hopeless people,” and “a forgotten nation.”“But one thing that stood out for me in Ghana is the pride that the people have even in their suffering. It is the honesty. They put me to shame because I said that I committed crime because I was poor, but I've seen people that are 100 percent poorer than I ever was but they are not committing crimes here.”And the touching lesson, he says, urges him on to want to hit the streets all day to encourage people to shun crime and live their dreams, great, positive dreams of course; an agenda he has been spreading for five years since being set free from prison.And prison - McKenzie has a 'better' name for it; HELL, and if you dreamed of doing anything that has a jail sentence potential, he says to tell you DON'T! Because you may not survive and return to even a wretched life again.“All I want to tell people is; here is a man that came from hell and I'm here today to come and tell you it's burning there. They don't need to make my mistakes to learn from my mistakes,” confesses the 6ft-plus, strongly built author of Choice who had previously found hunger and greed reason enough to resign his fate to violent crime.When asked what at all could motivate a man to attempt 'sins' such as robbing security-conscious and heavily guarded banks, McKenzie gave what appeared to be his well-rehearsed maxim; “A hungry stomach believes no rules. A greedy stomach respects no rules. I was both. Hungry and greedy and I tell you my brother, if you are hungry and greedy, there is nothing that you will see as a danger to life, that is why I robbed banks, just the lure of good money.”Certainly McKenzie cannot be proud of his violent past and he is not, but he insists he is a fulfilled man today for what ends he is putting his energies.“I am not an angel as I sit here, but I am a fulfilled person and greatly blessed by God. I have no regrets, my only regret is that I will not be able to reach out to every prisoner before I die.”For this reason McKenzie urges all hands on deck, “Because people have this tendency of saying I do not have a child in prison. I don't have a family member in prison. Yea, today you might not have a child in prison, today you might not have a family member in prison, but tomorrow, your child might go to prison, or your family member, or still yourself can end up in prison.” “I've seen two million school children in my five years. I have seen thousands of corporates. I've seen thousands of drug addicts. I've seen thousands of apprentice criminals and I've helped many of them, and I stand in front of you, my brother, to tell you that the only reason why I could help them was because I was helped. So help your neighbour, be your brother's keeper because today you're giving help, tomorrow you might need help.”Need to fight crime betterMcKenzie fears society is not doing enough to fight crime, and people and programmes that can effect a positive redirection from the menace are looking to the wrong people. Why do churches continue preaching to the converted every Sunday and fail to take the word of God to the prisons? Why won't business people take their skill into jails to mentor criminals to become entrepreneurs? And why won't women take that God-given motherly, tenderly love to the jails to tell inmates that they are loved?In McKenzie's view, prisons are at the heartbeat of crime and leaving them out of the fight against crime is a big joke.“African leaders must wake up to the fact that gone are the days when prisoners had to just sit down in prison and wait for the date of release… There are prisoners that have skill in jail, those without skills let them be thought skills… The problem I have is that people are so negative, people do not believe in themselves. Here I am, not better than all the other ex-prisoners, I just had better opportunities, and I mention this to everybody out there whether you are a prisoner or not, because we all have our prisons - your prison might not be my prison. My prison was steel bars, yours might be marriage, your prison might be a prison of the mind, your prison might be of insecurities. So what I'm saying to you is that it is time to unlock that prison and get out to be free, be free not only in mind but in spirit and in deed.”Are you a sorry ex-prisoner?McKenzie says there is no need to feel sorry for yourself. It will destroy and keep you deeper in a new, more frightful prison. Feeling sorry “was my worst crime. I felt sorry for myself right from the beginning and I realised this feel of sorry for myself is taking me absolutely nowhere. It's time to act, it's time to do good, it's time to give back to society. “No prisoner need to come out of jail and feel sorry and complain that nobody wants to give them jobs. For Christ's sake you committed a crime and if you did that against mankind, against humanity, you can't expect the people to wait for you with open arms. The onus is on you the ex-prisoner to show why you should be given a second chance. You should come out here and clean your neighbour's yard without payment. You should do the menial task, you should be the man that they send to shop, they should see trust all over you, they should not see you hanging out with the same friends with whom you committed crime.“And that is why I keep telling people, I am here not because I am clever. I am here because I never ever gave up hope. There is one way that I describe my success - that here you have a guy that never said never. I went on, I persevered, I conquered, and today, you see a man that has conquered what he wanted to achieve and still be very hungry for more.”McKenzie does not believe his efforts will change the whole world. That would be a foolish wish, he says. He is just happy, in the meantime, doing what he does and intends to continue, hopefully eternally. [Herbert Mensah met Gayton McKenzie in Greece, in April of 2008, during a JAG Sports & Education Foundation event and after listening to his dramatic story, set in motion by the nine-hour bloody rape of a South African white minor in prison, decided that Ghanaian youths can also make use of his experiences. A chapter of the Foundation is to be established in Ghana.]

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