By Rotimi Agbana
Inequality and deprivation are still the primary experiences of township youth, and for many, the only way to achieve real change is through participation in collective violence.
Without the strict discipline which characterized their earlier years, many of the youth have become involved in criminal activities. These youth were highly trained in the use of weapons and arms, which were used in carrying out criminal activities or in fights between different groups.
This is no different from Xolane Ndhlovu, Founder & President of South African Entrepreneurship Centre For Ex- Offenders ( SAECEO) and CEO of UMEH Group, Africa’s conglomerate firm based in South Africa. Born in Bugersfort, South Africa, he lived a life initially sewed in prison for unverified allegations, to rising to entrepreneurial motivations behind the steels, further sculpting foundations devoted to eradicating poverty in South Africa, helping youths awaken to entrepreneurial visions.
Ziggy as he was popularly known then, was a gang leader who was paid protection fee by drug lords. According to a close contact of Ndhlovu, through his personal knowledge and encounter working for Ndhlovu over the years, he was never considered a criminal because he never harmed nor preyed on innocent people. Their line of gang deal were strictly after major drug Lords, especially the ones who paid police for protection to keep their business afloat.
“There was three separate gang related shootings in a small town called Benoni in South Africa, and these shootings involved rivalry gangs. The first incident left three gang members dead, the second incident which happened two weeks after the first incident left four gang members dead. No arrests were made at the time, not until the third incident where the younger brother of the boss of the rivalry gang survived the third shooting, this development brought about the arrest of Ndhlovu who was implicated by the victim” said a source who didnt want to be named.
“During the trial, nasty rumours surfaced that Ziggy had organized with his gang to have the controversial judge presiding over his case assassinated”. The rumor was picked up by South African highest police intelligence known as HAWKS which prompted the shutdown of Benoni magistrate court. “Throughout his trial, Ziggy was placed under a heavily armed police unit known as (TRT) Tactical Response Team launched by then Police Chief Bheki Cele to combat hardened criminals” dishes the source.
“Although he was not tried for seven count of murders which was part of his charge sheet initially due to police inability to produce sufficient evidence linking the three separate incidents. “He was convicted of attempted murder, possession of semi-automatic weapon, possession of police bulletproof, and pointing of firearm” added the source.
While serving time in prison, he started taking online courses on how to buy shares in startup tech companies, thanks to today’s technological advancement which enables prisoners in South Africa access to laptop and internet. His inspiration was the fact that his billionaire role model Richard Branson was also once arrested in 1971 before becoming a successful businessman, according to his biography. Branson’s Virgin Group is the major inspiration behind Xolane Ndhlovu’s UMEH Group which now owns over 16 companies under its wings.
Although it was never going to be easy for Ndhlovu to run a successful business behind bars, he conquered the odds regardless by employing people who managed his businesses effectively in his absence.