The grateful hustler
Percy Mabandu chats to Gayton McKenzie about life on the outside
How do you, if at all, deal with criticism that you are a glorified criminal and, as a result, a bad example?
My most liberating day didn’t happen when I was released from jail, but when I stopped paying attention to negative things said about me. Some people hate the pope; some hate Oprah. Who am I to demand all-round love?
This year marks the 10th year since your release from prison. How does it feel and what does it mean to you?
It’s a very emotional period for me. It’s not easy to explain, but I am extremely grateful to those who helped me along the way. I can never repay them.
Why was important that you write this book?
Books written at present speak to intellectuals. They speak about stocks and bonds, but not to people with no savings. Books like Rich Dad, Poor Dad are not written for us. Most of us don’t even have dads to start with.
What would you say is the difference between the Gayton who was hurled into jail and the one who walked out in 2003?
Everything – but mostly my previous belief that only money equals success. I don’t underwrite that any more. The other big change is I don’t solve my problems with violence any more. I still have a long way to go, but I have made great strides in my thinking, my behaviour and in showing empathy for others.
Is your hunger for financial success a result of your upbringing, or your prison experience?
My upbringing was lived in a kind of recession. As a result, I used to chase money, but now I’m chasing success. Success guarantees happiness. Money is often a necessary part of that, but it’s no guarantee.
How would you describe your relationship with people who knew you before and after prison, and your later success, such as family and fellow prisoners?
Kenny and I have helped more ex-prisoners than some official organisations that get funding to reintegrate ex-prisoners. Most of the gangsters I used to do crime with though are dead today. A small number are still in a life of crime, but I walked away from that world. I’m very close with my immediate family and people who stayed loyal to me over the years.
Do you find your prison experience useful in business?
The lessons I learnt in prison, you can’t find in any book. I tried to squeeze some of them into A Hustler’s Bible.
How hard was it for you to transcend this dark side of prison as you rehabilitated yourself?
I was a boss in prison, but most importantly, I’m the boss of my destiny. So I put my all into becoming a new person. Success is decided inwardly. I’m a hustler and hustlers don’t succeed because of anything – but despite everything.