It may look like an ordinary coffee
shop, but the story behind it is an
Gangstar Coffee Café in Main Road in Mowbray has a unique team of baristas.
It employs ex-convicts who are reintegrating into society - a project by The Message Trust, a non-
governmental organisation which seeks to empower and break the cycle of poverty among youth at risk, in and outside of prison.
Most of their programmes are being held at the Drakenstein Correctional Centre.
Xola Dingiswayo, 30, from The Leagues in Mitchells Plain, is currently the assistant manager at the shop, where five full-time and two part-time ex-offenders also work.
You’ll see him pouring cappuccinos, complete with the fancy cream artwork, but this was not always his life.
REINTEGRATE: Gangstar Café employs ex-convicts
The father of a four-month-old boy says his life of crime led him to where he is today.
“I was convicted for the illegal possession of a firearm. Growing up in Samora Machel, I was part of a gang.
"We robbed people, smoked buttons and eventually I was arrested in 2012.
“I spent a year and seven months in Pollsmoor Prison and I was later transferred to Drakenstein Prison, where I spent a year and four months,” Xola explains.
His life changed when he started the Work Readiness Programme at Drakenstein.
“I was about to be released and I started getting involved in the Work Readiness Programme and found Christ. I came out and then volunteered at a local non-profit organisation and served soft-serve cones,” he says.
Xola was one of the first people to work at Gangstar when it opened in March 2017 and is quite popular among the customers, who ask for him by name.
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“I was sent for barista training in 2016, and in March 2017 the store opened.
“I am passionate about what I do. I love working with people and sharing my
“I have also been mentoring boys so they do not follow the path I have and I encourage them with the word of God.
“People always think you will change in prison, but that may not be the case. Living a life of crime is not worth it. While outside, you can acknowledge God before you even reach prison.”