From jail to preaching

2017-07-11 06:02
Former prisoner Vuyo Nyabaza has changed his life, from being a gangster to a leader at the Message Trust organisation in Woodstock.PHOTO: Nomzamo Yuku

Former prisoner Vuyo Nyabaza has changed his life, from being a gangster to a leader at the Message Trust organisation in Woodstock.PHOTO: Nomzamo Yuku

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From being a wanted criminal to becoming a pastor of the Baptist Church, Vuyo Nyabaza (33) now also works as a leader of an organisation based in Woodstock that helps former prisoners like him.

He joined the Message Trust NGO in 2014 after years of struggling to find a job and acceptance because of his criminal record and past. He says his life turned around while he was serving the last years of his sentence at Pollsmoor prison after being sentenced to five years’ imprisonment.

That sentencing came after five years of awaiting trial following his arrest in 2000 for a number of crimes, including robbery, theft and house breaking. He says he escaped in 2004 and became a wanted fugitive. When he was found all the other charges against him were withdrawn. He was convicted of escaping from prison and was sentenced to five years.

He says over the years, he had to maintain a status as a popular, respected gang member. One day the message of a pastor who was a regular visitor to Pollsmoor grabbed him. He then decided to start his life over.

“Prison was terrible. I lost hope and had given up my life to gangsterism because that was the only way, but when I got out life became even worse. It was like I was still being punished for my actions. No-one trusted me in my community, no-one would employ me because of my record. I was down and out,” says Nyabaza.

“Before getting arrested I was living a life every young man desires – driving the best cars, owning a house in my teens and popular in my community. I led the gang.

“But now I had nothing and my father had passed on. God was my only hope and during my search for a job I came across the Message and I was accepted and treated well. I realised this is where I belonged,” he adds.

He says since he got out he wanted to help youngsters, especially those with problems with drugs, gangsterism and former prisoners. The organisation was doing exactly that, uplifting and creating jobs for them. He started volunteering and after years he finally got a permanent job.

He now represents prisoners and former prisoners. He is also a radio presenter and a pastor at the Baptist Church.

Nyabaza says he had wanted to quit gangsterism even before being convicted but “gangsterism has only one door: The entrance. There is no exit”. “Gangsterism looks glamorous and attractive from the outside but it is like hell. You live in fear, you regret it but you just cannot do anything. If you have not started with it, please do not.”

He says there are signs to notice when a young person joins a gang. He says every gang group has its unique style, it could be a dress code or a language that is only done by those gang members. “You might take those things for granted but they mean something to them; that is how it starts,” says Nyabaza.

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