9 January 2005 was a day like any other in Omaheke’s regional capital, Gobabis – it is the day that saw the now 40-year-old Michael Ubu-Khaeb go from the celebrated footballer to villain of the town. Life would never be the same again for Ubu-Khaeb.
Ubu-Khaeb, an inmate at the Windhoek Correctional Facility, was convicted of murder and assault is serving a 16 year sentence. He has spent the last nine years of his life behind bars.
Ubu-Khaeb recounts the painful and regretful events which transpired on the fateful day which changed his life tremendously. During a recent visit to the country’s leading correctional facility, Ubu-Khaeb narrated to The Patriot how he ended up in prison.
At first sight, Ubu-Khaeb comes across as a completely transformed, humble and motivated man. He made it clear that “prison is not the end of the world” and that he will leave the cells in 2019 “a changed man”.
Narrating his version of the story, the Tsumeb-born Ubu-Khaeb attended a soccer game on that fateful day and would later be joined by his then girlfriend at a braai.
Being a non-drinker, he returned home earlier and left his then girlfriend in the company of her friends. Six hours later, he woke up to realise that his girlfriend was not yet at home. More worried and puzzled he embarked on a search of the girlfriend’s whereabouts.
Upon leaving his house, he took a kitchen knife as a safety measure. This would be Ubu-Khaeb’s greatest mistake.
“The biggest mistake I made that day was taking along the kitchen knife which I did for my protection but I was not supposed to do that,” Ubu-Khaeb said with a heavy heart. While the dark streets of Gobabis, he searched for his lover at the spots she would normally be found (local bars and at her friend’s place) but with no success.
However, just a few metres near her friend’s house, he saw the friends he left his girlfriend with.
All of a sudden they started running away from him and wondered what had prompted them to do so. From a distance he saw two people standing next to a light pole and recognised the clothes his girlfriend was wearing.
Astounded beyond his comprehension, it was really his girlfriend that was with another man.
“Is this the 12 o’clock you said you will be back? I asked. The moment she came closer to me out of jealousy and anger I slapped her and she fell to the ground that is when I used the knife to stab her twice on her buttocks,” he said.
Ubu-Khaeb further explained that the girlfriend was only injured and is still alive but unfortunately the man he caught her with had died as a result of Ubu-Khaeb stabbing him.
“The deceased who was in a drunken state and I quarrelled prior to the incident, he had a beer bottle which he attacked me with and in return I stabbed him twice and ran away,” he recounts.
“I should have acted better because I was the sober one between the two of us,” Ubu-Khaeb added before adding that anger, jealousy and vengeance clouded his judgement. “It was a dark moment. It was a blackout,” he recalls.
What happened then was out of the ordinary as the introverted Ubu-Khaeb would attempt and fail to take his own life.
“I ran to my uncle’s house and out of fear I took his 2.2 mm rifle, searched for the rifles bullets and shortly thereafter I shot myself under my cheek.”
The bullet is currently still in Ubu-Khaeb’s body as doctors have not removed it due to further medical implications it might lead to. After hospitalisation when he recovered he was informed about the crime that he committed.
“I was in shock and I collapsed. Even if I reflect back I could remember that I stabbed him but I don’t remember more than that.”
Not focussing of the crime he committed, Ubu-Khaeb now has a positive approach towards life. Prison has changed him and he regrets what he did.
Born and raised in a Christian home, Ubu-Khaeb maintains that nobody is immune to crime. Those that commit crime should not be regarded as outcasts but that all of us are human. Currently he is a literacy promoter at the facility and continues to inspire other inmates. He also encourages men to speak out about issues of concern. He further emphasised the importance of soft skills education.
Furthermore, Ubu-Khaeb is ready for integration back into the community; he is passionate about assisting the elderly.