Church rehabilitates a recidivist

Healed: Baliki is a changed man
Healed: Baliki is a changed man

FRANCISTOWN: Archingweni Baliki, a former habitual recidivist has hailed the role of the church in rehabilitating him from his former life as a hardened criminal.

Until last year, Archie, as Baliki is popularly known to hordes of his peers, led a risky life of solely surviving on the proceeds of crime.  Relapsing into crime was his second nature.  

The lean, dark in complexion and soft-spoken Archie is a resident of the crime-infested low-income location of Block One.

This is where he grew up watching some of his peers survive by terrorising people.  He decided to join them.

“I was pushed by poverty at home as I had tried hard looking for a job without success. Armed with a Junior Certificate, it was very hard to get a job and I resorted to crime as a means of survival,” says Archie, who spent sleepless nights nurturing a risky career that landed him in prison on a number of occasions.

He partly blamed his mother for the tough life he lived, as he claims she would always mock him to provide for himself when she knew that it was not easy for her son to get a job.

Snatching women’s handbags, housebreaking, theft, breaking into people’s cars and running away with their valuables was the kind of life that put bread on Archie’s table.

To those in the know, Archie exhibited his criminal behaviour from a tender age.

He was a problem child who gave his parents, siblings, neighbours and teachers at school a torrid time. All this started when he was doing Standard Three. At secondary school, he was already a hardened criminal.

At some stage, Archie and his mother were not on talking terms, as she feared for her life.

The son felt the mother had bewitched him and his siblings.

When he was on his mission, Archie never bothered himself with who saw him, as his target was to get the loot and show his chasers a clean pair of heels.  He was a good runner, especially after snatching a woman’s handbag, as he knew he would gain something.

His first major brush with the law was in 2006 after snatching a handbag from a medical doctor based at the Mahalapye Hospital who had just disembarked from a Lusaka-bound bus in the wee hours of the morning at the Barcelo’s eatery in Francistown.

“Immediately after she disembarked from the bus I pounced on her and fled with her bag, which fortunately for me contained P9,500 and an expensive cellphone,” recalled Archie of the nine-year-old incident.

With that loot, he caught the earliest bus to Gaborone to enjoy himself.  Unfortunately upon his return from Gaborone he found the police waiting for him.

He would spend three months as a prisoner awaiting trial and later served 24 months for the crime.

It seems there was something  urging Archie to continue with his criminal activities as he never learnt his lesson.  

On one of his missions to steal he spotted a car loaded with some electronic equipment he had long craved for.  Whilst the car owner was busy imbibing at the Area L joint, Archie broke into his car and stole laptops, three digital cameras and a modulator all valued at about P16,000.

Whilst police were investigating the matter, Archie served four months in  prison awaiting trial and as luck would have it, the complainant withdrew the matter after he recovered all his stolen goods.

In 2013, he broke into the house of a person he knew in Block One and stole a laptop, an external hard drive and a cellphone.   He knew his loot would easily be disposable to make a quick buck.

This time around, he wound up serving at least six months whilst awaiting trial although the goods were recovered.  With luck on his side the matter was also withdrawn.

“After committing a crime, I would buy stuff and show off that I had money and that was one way I sold myself out to the police as they would always follow me as a suspect until I reveal the truth,” he says.

As a career criminal, the police could not detect some of the offences he committed.  He said it was easy to sell stolen goods at the bus/taxi rank in Francistown.

“Zimbabwean shoppers who come in large numbers to buy some of their needs in Francistown provide the market for stolen goods,” he says.

Beginning of 2014, Archie made a deliberate act to change: “It was enough with this criminal life as I was already fed up with hiding from the police”.

At first, Archie chose to stay at home, isolating himself from the world and suppressing the urge get back to his criminal ways.

“I later decided to follow God so that I am cleansed of the appetite for criminal life.  It was my girlfriend who led me to a local church, The Shadow of God International Ministries, so that I got prayed for and healed of the desire to depend on crime.”

He would later realise that church was the missing link in his life as he had now made a 360 degree turn-around as he believes God has given him a second chance in life.

“The Shadow of God International Ministries has now become my second home as it’s where I was born again and saw the power of God,” he says, stressing that the church has changed his perspective on life and he does not want to hurt anyone anymore.

“Today I am an usher at my church.  I am serving people and not hurting them as I have done in the past,” he says.

He now courts some of his peers, who are still involved in crime, in an endeavour to turn their lives around.

“I do my best to talk to those who are still doing crime to abandon that life.  This Sunday, I have invited someone who is still into crime to my church and he is willing to change,” he says.

He is in the process of approaching the police so that he can educate his peers on the dangers of crime, and this, he is ready to do for free.  He subscribes to the notion that crime does not pay.

He is happy that the society is accepting him back after years of rejection and condemnation as a hardened criminal. “My mother had given up on me because I would not listen to anyone at home. But all that is now history,” says Archie.

From his dark days of burglaries and theft, Archie will soon start a new life thanks to Nyeletso Lehuma or the poverty eradication project, which is destined to deliver a bakery to him and is expected to change his life.

“The bakery machines are expected to arrive by end of the month and I will be operating from home as I now have peace with my mother and siblings.  All is well,” he says.

Archie says he is ready to change the world into a better place for humanity.

His mother, who was in tears during the interview, ran short of words to describe her appreciation of the role the church has played in transforming her son.

“I started having trouble with my son, who exhibited strange behaviour whilst he was still doing Standard Three.  I did everything that mothers do, but I clashed with my son to the extent that he branded me a witch,” says Idah Baliki, Archie’s mother.

She says her son was very cheeky and would sell anything he wanted to sell from the house to get fast cash.  At some stage she wished her son would rot in prison (at Selebi-Phikwe and Francistown prisons) as his absence from home gave the family some respite.

Idah hailed the church for providing a solution to her son after trying everything in the book, including various church denominations, traditional doctors and others without help.

“When I heard that my son was born-again I held my breath fearing that he might steal from the church.  I can vouch now that he is a changed man,” says the  mother sobbing in relief.

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