Story of Hope: From Gang Leader to Inspiring Positive Change in OthersFebruary 14, 2023
Kurt was born and raised in Lantana, a community in Paarl known for gang violence.
Being exposed to poverty and violence and following pressure to make a living, Kurt got involved in drugs and gangsterism at the age of 20 years.
“Growing up, I had no positive role models, no one to share my struggles with, and I did not know how I would pursue my dreams. I felt lost, and many young boys in my community struggle with the same issues, leading to drugs and gangsterism,” Kurt explained.
For years, the gang ran havoc in the Lantana community and was regularly in trouble with the police. He became one of the gang leaders and started using drugs heavily.
Even though he was trapped in drugs and gangsterism, Kurt desperately wanted direction, freedom and an opportunity to lead a positive life.
Seeking and accepting help
During the worst period of the Lantana community’s gang violence, Kurt and the other gang members were invited to Monte Christo Miqlat’s gym to work out and get a hot meal.
Monte Christo Miqlat (MCM) is a nonprofit organisation that runs several empowerment programmes at the Tiffany’s Centre in Lantana, focusing primarily on youth education, job creation and sports.This invite to the centre significantly impacted the gang members’ lives.
“When you are in a gang, no one in the community wants to be associated with you. You are not invited into any space, let alone offered a meal. This gesture warmed my heart, and I wanted to continue to be part of everything happening at Tiffany’s,” Kurt expressed.
A few days after the first invite, Aletia Grundling, CEO of MCM, was inspired to do more.
She invited the same gang members to see David Kramer’s Kanala at The Fugard Theatre in Cape Town, and when the award-winning movie, Noem my Skollie, was released in theatres, she organised for the group to see the film too.
Inspired by the life story of John Fredericks, the ex-gangster whose life story Noem my Skollie is about, and the kindness shown to him by MCM’s staff, Kurt decided to commit to a new life.
He went back to MCM and told Aletia that he had quit the gang, and 14 other gang members followed his lead.
Following that decision, Kurt went to rehab for three months and beat his drug addiction.
“I am a young man that loves music and theatre. I knew there was no future in gangsterism and drugs. I had to clean up my life so I could be a positive role model for the young kids in my community, especially my daughter,” Kurt stated.
Telling his story
Through MCM, some of the gang member’s stories were compiled into a published book, Hanne innie lig, voete oppie grond.
Kurt is currently clean from drugs, working on another book, doing a radio production internship through local Paarl radio station, Radio KC, and is focused on raising his daughter.
“Kurt is an example of how changing your mindset can make a big difference in your life. The community respects him for bringing peace to Lantana. I am extremely proud of Kurt,” Aletia affirmed. “Even through the struggles, I could never leave Lantana. I love this place, and whatever change I can bring to the world, I will bring it from here,” Kurt concluded.