Despite a few difficulties, thanks to some unusual circumstances, one Johannesburg man has been lucky enough to experience somewhat of a positive outcome due to his wrongful conviction. Boswell Mhlongo was released last year with help from the Wits Justice Project after serving 13 years in two maximum-security prisons for murdering a police officer—a crime that he did not commit.
While he was serving time, Mhlongo completed his matric, which is comparable to honor-level courses in the United States. Matric is the highest level of graduation in South Africa and is required in order to attend a university in the country. He also took several computer science courses, as well as creating a profile on an online dating website. That dating site is where he met the love of his life, Mavis.
Mavis, learned that Mhlongo was incarcerated when he tried to explain where he was after several days of her talking with him. Although he was not the first prisoner she had met through online dating, her instincts encouraged Mavis to trust him and she agreed to meet with Mhlongo. Not knowing anything about prison and hoping to have a place to sit down and talk, she struggled to get in because of what she was wearing. Their first meeting finally took place, however, and the rest is history.
Following Mhlongo’s release, by the end of 2015 the couple was married. They have continued to face setbacks, however. They still do not live together because they have been unable to find jobs in the same province, as it is difficult for Mhlongo to find one. He has to explain why there is a 13-year gap in his career, to which interviewers then get scared and fear for their lives when they hear the word “murder.” Now 37-years-old, Mhlongo was eventually able to find work training mechanics in the northwest.
Although he is finally free, Mhlongo says he is still angry with not only the system that wrongfully imprisoned him, but also with some of the relatives who abandoned him. He stated that his wrongful conviction destroyed him and that despite knowing what kind of person he is, he does not know why his family members could not trust him that he was innocent.
Mhlongo is considering taking legal action, even though no amount of financial compensation will ever be enough to replace the time he lost during his wrongful incarceration.