But today she’s known as the Mother Teresa of Lavender Hill, after turning over a new leaf.
Her home in Constitution Court was once a drug den, but these days it’s a soup kitchen, from where she feeds more than 200 hungry kids every week.
The widow of slain 26s gangster, Sydney “Three-One” Josephs, was in Worcester Female Prison, and at the end of a six-month stint in jail, she met Sister Jenny Clayton of Baptist Hope Prison Ministries, who helped her see the error of her ways.
But her final wake-up call came eight years later, when her daughter was bust for drug possession.
Charmaine, 54, cooks anything from vetkoek to roast chicken and stews for "her children”.
“If I make a 60 litre pot, I can feed 250 children,” she says.
“This is my testimony, this is me saying thank you to God for opening the doors for me.”
Another dream that came true for Charmaine was when she was baptised in the river Jordan and visited Israel.
She held events like karaoke evenings to raise the money.
“I went to the prison where they kept Jesus before he was crucified and I said ‘Lord, I was in prison and I ruined people’s lives and houses’. I said ‘Lord, you did nothing and you were not angry’. I said ‘Lord, calm the storms in others lives’.”
She adds: “I didn’t have any pocket money and someone bought me a Coke which cost 13 dollars but I didn’t drink it, I brought it home as a souvenir.”
Charmaine’s neighbours Marilyn Coller, 55, and Glenda Gordan, 59, praise her good work.
Glenda says: “She has always been good to me, she helped us then and she is helping us now.”