Former prisoner rebuilds life one stitch at a time

Malusi Mbadamane uses the sewing machine in Constantia to stitch Christmas hats for the children in Mfuleni.

Malusi Mbadamane, also known as Ace, who used to make prison overalls during his 20-year sentence, is now using these skills to sew his own clothing.

Mr Mbadamane, from Mfuleni, was released from prison in 2019.

He was fortunate to meet Annette Fatti, who currently teaches disadvantaged women how to sew and stitch to help them open their own businesses.

Ms Fatti allowed Mr Mbadamane to attend her ongoing classes with the women at the JP Duminy Hall in Claremont, as he already had knowledge of making overalls, underwear and other clothing items for prisoners.

Annette Fatti and Malusi “Ace” Mbadamane.

“Many bad things were happening in prison and to finally be able to leave, it’s a major life change. It really made me want to change my life. I am thankful to God for giving me another chance,” Mr Mbadamane said.

“I have knowledge of how to use the older sewing machine but I really had to learn how to use a more modern overlocker. I am showing Ms Fatti how eager I am to help because I would like to have my own sewing machine some day.

“I would visit her once or twice a week to use her sewing machine at her house,” he said.

He said he would like to make clothes to sell.

Mr Mbadamane has already made 18 Christmas caps working in Ms Fatti’s back garden in Constantia. He made the Christmas caps for the children in Mfuleni, because he does not have much contact with family since going to prison.

“Before I went to prison, I used to buy my family a whole sheep for Christmas to have for lunch. This Christmas, I’ll be on my own, and maybe see one of my children but other than this, it’s just good to see others happy,” he said.

Mr Mbadamane would like to buy his very own sewing machine some day.

He said he doesn’t want to ask people for money even though he is unemployed, but he would really appreciate assistance from the public to help him buy his very own sewing machine.

“I will start making clothes on my own for people and do alterations for them, eventually, one day I would like to open my own clothing factory,” he said.

Ms Fatti said: “Ace learned a lot in prison. He is a sensitive and a deeply thoughtful person. He says that prison kept him young because he had an opportunity to stay out of trouble and grow in emotional intelligence. He now realises that he wants to live a life free of crime.”

She said the fact that Mr Mbadamane was not able to be there for his family, had led him to valuing personal and community relationships even more, since he had made his return to society. His children were young when he went to prison and his wife had left him.

“Ace helped my women’s group meet our deadline and finish the production of 500 Christmas hats within seven days. He was caring and engaged well with the young moms and their babies working in the team. He was also so eager to learn how to use the domestic overlocker and machine and I was excited by his passion and enthusiasm to learn these new skills,” she said.

Ms Fatti said she gave Mr Mbadamane a sewing machine to borrow until next year so that he can continue making garments until they meet again in the new year.

“I am certain that Ace will thrive if he is given more opportunities to improve his skills and start up his own business next year. Earning an income by working with something that he loves such as designing and sewing, is something that is his dream. I believe that we can make this possible for him,” she said.

To assist Mr Mbadamane with his goal of owning his own sewing machine or to get your clothes altered by him, contact him on 082 477 2963 or email Ms Fatti on annette.fatti@gmail.com.