MESS CAFÉ BARISTA
I grew up in a little town called Samora in Cape Town, where I spent my youth as part of a gang. We would smoke drugs and abuse alcohol, to the point where I could not recognise myself. Then one day I was arrested for being in possession of a firearm...And I was sent to prison. After nine months in prison I reached a decision; that I just can't live this life anymore. I knew something had to change. I heard the gospel, I'd heard it a lot of times before - but this time something was different... I felt a connection with God - and I realised that nothing could separate me from His love. When I was younger, I used to think God is for other people, not for me. I would look at the madness around me and say to myself, "Is this what God made for me?" but He never left me. I enrolled myself in some of the spiritual programmes, committed my life to Jesus and got filled with the spirit of God. Since leaving prison, I've started to work with The Message Trust - I am now a trained Barista, hoping to one day become South Africa's very best.
MESS CAFÉ BARISTA
I am Simphiwe Zolile Thunzi, a young man who was lost and now found, rooted in the things of God. After being sentenced for 18 years in prison, I felt as if the end of my life was upon me. Becoming a gangster was the only option I had for me to survive in prison- in my perspective. So, I became a 26-gang member, deep in gangsterism and smuggling in prison, desperate to move up the ranks in order to survive, until I met a man called Vuyo Nyabaza, who works for The Message. I believe God sent Vuyo to do an amazing work in my life and who had so much patience with me; something I never experienced in the gangs. All Glory to God for I am now serving God and a door opened for me when I was released to work with The Message Trust. I am now Professional Barista, working at their Mess Cafe.
SOFT MACHINE MANAGER
At the age of 19 I was sentenced to 15 years in prison and sent to maximum security. This was my first exposure to gang life. Life in prison was tough and I decided to join the ‘27’s’ gang and was in the gang for two years. Then, a key moment came when my father died, I was filled with remorse for leaving my mother alone and was feeling responsible for her. Around 2009 I was moved to medium security, and started doing various programmes to avoid getting stuck in a hole. In 2009 I met Mark Slessenger (current Operations Director, The Message Trust) through a sports ministry he was running in prison, the programme was Christian based and I learnt more about God. This interaction influenced my thinking, and slowly I began to move away from the gang. In 2014 I was released from prison. The Message approached me to come and work with the first of The Message’s Gangstar Enterprise businesses, the Soft Machine, an ice-cream vending business. I have now been working in the business since my release and recently was promoted to run the Soft Machine.