This former gang leader is now doing a blooming good job of growing vegetables.
Magadien Wentzel, 56, from Manenberg went from being a 28s gang dik ding to gardener and leader of eight horticulturists at a veggie garden in Canterbury Street, Cape Town.
Using some of his bandiet skills he’s been able to create an organic garden that grows spinach, kale and rocket.
In 1978, Magadien was a UWC student and studying to become a lawyer when he claims he was wrongfully incarcerated during a student protest and jailed for public violence.
“I was angry, they took away my dream to become a lawyer,” Magadien says emotionally.
He served two years at Pollsmoor prison without trial.
With his dreams shattered and frustration towards the apartheid government building, Magadien acted out against white prison wardens, stabbing them to get revenge.
With each stabbing he’d rise up the 28s’ ranks, working his way up to become the leader of the gang.
After serving a 25-year sentence, he was released in 2003, getting involved with different NGOs to help him reintegrate into society.
Khulisa, a NGO in partnership with the Cape Town Central City Improvement District (CCID), helps create jobs and teaches skills to homeless mense.
The NGO supervisors approached Magadien, initially to bring him on board as a trainer, to teach a group of homeless people life skills.
“I mean you can beg, but then you’ll beg every other day and the day after that. So we needed to find an alternative, ” explains Magadien.
That’s when he helped dig up and create the Cape Town Streetscape garden.
The groot stuk of land alongside the Fruit and Veg is laid out with two rows of wooden boxes containing various plants and spices.
A dusty path lined with colourful tyres, nursing sprouting seedlings, splits the rows into two sections.
“For me it’s great to see these guys have gotten their dignity back, they aren’t waiting for handouts at the robots. They are working now and as they work, they earn. All the proceeds we make here, gets put into their salaries”, Magadian says proudly.
All eight garden workers are currently working full time and receiving a R1 500 stipend, but are hoping to work towards a bigger amount as their gardening skills blossom.