Former criminals and drug addicts can attest to how difficult it is to break free from addiction and a life of crime, and so those who have managed to break free, can inspire those facing similar challenges.
One such source of inspiration is Loyiso Basso, a young man from Khayelitsha who is a true example that nothing is impossible in life when one sets one’s mind to it.
The 30-year-old Makhaya resident left a life of drugs and crime to open up a restaurant two years ago. He converted his bedroom into a kitchen and named the eatery Mnguli’s Corner. Mnguli is his nickname.
Mr Basso had been feared in his community but he soon realised that his involvement in crime was putting his life – and the lives of his relatives – at stake.
Detailing his life story, Mr Basso told Vukani that in 2006 he was arrested for attempted murder and being in position of an illegal firearm.
In 2007, however, the case was dismissed and he was released.
But since then, he said, he had been in and out of prison for various petty crimes.
He also joined gangs and often didn’t sleep at his home for weeks, fearing that he might be killed. His mother pleaded with him to change his ways.
He highlighted peer pressure as a major contributor to him being lured into drug use and crime.
He thanks God for enabling him to break free before it was too late.
“I was a feared young man. My mother would howl every time she saw me.
“My mother’s life was at risk. I knew that maybe my enemies would kill her if they couldn’t find me.
“Wherever I was, I was with my friends for protection and back up. I was always on the run. My life was miserable. I could have died a long time ago but God’s grace kept me safe all these years.”
Mr Basso said one day one of his friends invited him to church in 2009 and that was the first step he took in turning his life around.
But he battled to get decent employment, so he decided to draw on his passion for cooking, and started raising capital for his business by doing catering for his friends and relatives.
He also did gardening and washed dirt bins to make a living.
Through these efforts, he gained the community’s trust, he said.
“I first bought a gas stove and bought other items like pots for my kitchen,” he said.
Then he started selling pap and chakalaka.
But his business grew and he started selling bunny chows known as kota in the township.
He stuffs them with fries, fried egg, lettuce, cucumber, and a sausage or a burger.
“I have learnt my lessons. I use my life experience to warn the young ones about the complications and dangers of drugs and crime life,” he said.