South Africa has seen a 75% drop in violent crime during the coronavirus pandemic. Now, rival gang members in Cape Town are teaming up to collect and distribute food and essential goods to those in need.
“What we’re seeing happen here is literally a miracle,” Andie Steele-Smith, a pastor who works with gang members in the community, told BBC News.
Before the pandemic, South Africa had some of the highest violent crime rates on the continent. But now, new circumstances have created changes that are leading to a silver lining.
The government has imposed some of the toughest quarantine rules in the world, including banning alcohol and cigarette sales. The economy has taken a beating—and the gang members were feeling the effects as much as anybody else.
“I got a phone call from two gang leaders, both saying ‘Andie, I’ve never asked you for anything but we are starving’,” the Australian-born pastor told BBC News. “And I just thought if these guys are starving—they are at the top of the food-chain—the rest of the community is going to be in serious, serious strife.”
Andie hatched a plan that would not only meet the needs of the community in the moment, but also show these young people a new sense of purpose in the world. He asked members who would normally be trying to kill each other to work together toward a common goal: providing food and vital supplies, such as soap, to those in need.
Preston Jacobs, a member of the “Americans” gang, told the BBC it “feels nice” to be doing something positive for the community. “Now I see there are nice people also, and people want to love what we’re doing now.”
Sansi Hassan of the “Clever Kids” gang expressed hope that the truce would become permanent, saying: “If it can stay like this, then there will be no gang fight,” he said. “And every gang will agree with us.”
Andie, a former banker who moved from Sydney to South Africa to become a pastor five years ago, expressed pride in what these young men are doing. “I’m proud of you guys. Literally, if I died today and went to heaven I would die a happy man.”
(WATCH the BBC video below)
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