Social entrepreneurs on a mission to help youth

Founder of 18Gangster Museum, Wandisile Nqeketho, showing some work and happenings inside the cell.

Developing creative minds and positive thinking is top of the agenda of Khayelitsha’s social entrepreneurs Wandisile Nqeketho and Siyabulela Daweti.

The founders of the 18Gangster Museum have committed themselves to assisting ex-convicts and young people around Khayelitsha to realise their potential. In trying to change people’s perspectives and mindsets about Khayelitsha and about ex-convicts, Mr Nqeketho and his friend Mr Daweti established 18Gangster Museum two years ago.

The aim is to educate people about the negative consequences of joining a gang, using images, documentaries and other forms of art. He was invited last month to attend the Salzburg Global Seminar with another entrepreneur Siviwe Mbinda, founder of Langa’s Happy Feet, for their involvement in community building. Mr Nqeketho described the initiative as a new way to curb gangsterism communities. It also serves as a tourist destination.

Mr Nqeketho, who is the managing director of the Makhaya-based museum, said the museum was designed to be mobile and to raise awareness in different communities.

He said the content focused on showcasing the wrong choices made by the gangsters, and present alternatives.

“We use reformed gangsters. They are now sitting at home doing nothing. So, we thought let us use them to reduce crime. They are the people that have done that and been there.

“If we work with them they can get something,” he said. “Chances are that they will go back to gangsterism again if they do nothing.”

Mr Nqeketho said schools and visitors enter the facility at “reduced rates”.

He said investing in young minds could contribute to job creation and boost the economy of the country.

He said he saw the impact of gangsterism in his community and that educating young people was one way of turning things around and helping young people make good career choices.

“We educate the young people on the consequences of being a gangster. But we do that through ex-convicts. I must say they are doing a sterling job. The advantage we have is that the stories are authentic.

“We are trying to make young people better citizens. We want to make a positive change. We focus more on preventative measures and forget other things,” said Mr Nqeketho.

Mr Daweti said young people joined gangs because they thought it was cool. “It is helping to have reformed convicts speaking to young people about their journey as prisoners. It does not only help young people, but ex-convicts themselves. By speaking out and sharing their stories, it is like therapy to them,” he said.

Mr Daweti said by having a conversation with an ex-offender and gang member who will have “gone back to prison” to tell his story, young people receive an education from someone who has made the wrong decisions when he was their age.

The museum will have an exhibition running from Friday December 9 to Sunday December 11 at Look Out Hill. Call 021 821 7864 for details or send an email to info@18gm.co.za for more details.