Ex-gangster scores to save lives

2017-07-04 15:41
Reformed gangster Jerome Sauls (30) is setting out to keep Hanover Park teens from following in his gang footsteps through his love of soccer.

Reformed gangster Jerome Sauls (30) is setting out to keep Hanover Park teens from following in his gang footsteps through his love of soccer. (Samantha Lee)

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Fresh out of prison, he is changing his life by changing the lives of others.

After being released from prison in October last year, Jerome Sauls (30) is working on making a lasting change after serving nine and a half years of his 22-year sentence in various prisons around the country.

“I made some bad decisions in my life,” says Sauls.

“I was one of the gang leaders inside but I always knew I could be something more in life.”
Sauls grew up in Philippi and was an avid soccer player. He was drafted into one of the best local professional teams in the country at the time.

“I used to play soccer for a professional team, but I did not appreciate it at that time because of the wrong friends I had and the negative influences.

That was when I started to lose what was important and value more what was not important. And this is why I ended up in prison,” says Sauls.

Growing up he was surrounded by alcohol abuse and gangsterism.

“I come from a broken home where I only have one parent. My elder brother was a gangster and he was a rolemodel to me so I followed his every step,” says Sauls.

He spent many years helping his brother, often holding on to his guns and money. Being exposed to this lifestyle made him want to have it, says Sauls.

“I did not want to go to school. I wanted to have nice clothes and be with every girl I saw and to drive a beautiful car, just like my brother,” he says.

His life took a turn for the worse when his brother was killed.

“His friends killed him. That is when I started to develop anger and a desire for revenge. People were trying to put me back on a right path but I was into the circle of gangs,” says Sauls.

He found a sense of belonging while in the gang that made it difficult to escape, he says.

“At the time I thought there was love and brotherhood in the gang. I felt like I belonged because there wasn’t love at home. There was no order at home and I was trying to provide for my younger siblings.”

After being in and out of prison for years, arrested for a variety of crimes, he was finally sentenced after an armed robbery and found himself in an Eastern Cape prison.

There he again sought comfort in a gang.

After a few years he was sent back to the Western Cape. With Pollsmoor unable to accommodate him, he was sent to Drakenstein.

“I travelled to six prisons in the country, because I was a gangster. And to me, these 15 years that I had meant I would never get out and that convinced me to continue doing what I was good at and that was to be a number and to destroy the world,” Sauls says.

It was at Drakenstein, after many years, that Sauls realised it was time to change.

“I finished my matric certificate in prison, after starting at Grade 4,” he says.

He was accepted by the Message, an organisation affiliated to City Mission Church. Through this he was able to finish several certificate courses, including public speaking.

“My prayer was that I wanted a stable home when I came out of prison,” says Sauls.

He found a place at a halfway house run by City Mission specifically for former prisoners who want to make a change.

Through the church, he is now also employed to help youth at risk to change their lives by sharing his love for soccer.

Although in its infancy, the project has already attracted the attention of 19 boys in Hanover Park.

His desire is to see them grow and develop into a positive crowd and stay in school.

They are also developing the boys’ life skills and Sauls shares his story with them.

The boys also came up with their own rules for the team and they will sign a contract when entering the team.

“I am approaching them as a friend to let them know that I am not smarter than them; we are all the same. At first they did not want to be in a team, but when they heard about the soccer, they were excited because sport is a universal language that everyone can speak,” he says.

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