It’s not often one meets one of Cape Town’s most notorious gangsters, appointed to one of the highest ranks in the criminal world through his gang, with worldly power to control the toughest prison environments in the region. So why was this gangster, Denzel, at the AE/Palau Love Cape Town mission festival, talking to missioners?
A couple of months ago, Denzel had an incredible revelation as a result of a family trauma that turned his world inside out. He turned to Christ 4 months ago when he realised that despite all the power of the criminal underworld and connections, it was not enough to stop the shocking abuse of his nine-year-old daughter, and a sudden realisation that his entire life has been built on a complete lie. At incredible risk to himself, he gave up all his wealth he had accumulated through crime to preserve his life by exiting the gang, and gave himself over to the church to find what this new pathway in Christ now means for him.
His first request to the church was to open his heart to feel love, which was so hardened by crime. In a short time, he began to repent for all the hurt he’d caused, particularly relived by remembering all the tears in the eyes of so many parents whose children he’d impacted.
Reflecting on his life, he realised that seeking protection of the gang for the constant bullying he’d experienced was the wrong choice. A ‘soft’ and small-statured target at school, his entry into gang life stopped the immediate problem, but very quickly took him many miles away from the care of his mother’s arms to a new city and complete criminal life at only 12 years of age.
Somehow he survived the next 19 years, which he believes is now for a higher purpose. “I’ve only been stabbed but never shot”, he said. “I’ve had a pistol pointed at me several times and the trigger pulled, but each time the gun jammed or misfunctioned.”
After a life, most of which has been spent in jail, God had finally woken him up to what his true role needed to be, which has not been without its costs. “My gang just cannot understand what has happened to me and normally I would be killed”, he said. “They even offered me money to come back. However I cannot go back. God knew me from within my mother’s womb, and after 19 years I have finally reconciled to my mother and daughters. That is the true power I have now, to be a proper parent. Now I am looking forward to becoming a father to my daughters and to start making up for the most important things in life that I lost in my life of crime.”
Incredibly, his mother never gave up praying for him during this time. Members of his old gang have also been observing closely the transformation that has taken place in his life since turning to Christ. One gang member has since said that he would like to have the power that Denzel now has.
There is now a very long road ahead of repentance and growth in his knowledge of Jesus. However, Denzel hopes that he can show that turning to gangs is not worth it, and will rob people of the very things that are most dear to them. True power is not in controlling the criminal underworld and the chains that it brings. It is only found in bringing life to others through Jesus, and in Denzel’s case, opening his life to the love of Christ and understanding what is like to be a true father. Please pray that youth in Cape Town will stay away from gangs and for God’s mercy on this city.