NEWS24: From Jail to Java: How Coffee is Changing Inmates’ Lives

Written by: Bertram Malgas

Original Article and Video:

After serving time in jail for violent crimes, baristas at Gangstar Café in Cape Town are now serving up hot cups of java instead. The cafe in Mowbray is training former inmates to become baristas as part of their job-readiness programme.

Xola Dingiswayo from Samora Machel ran with the wrong crowd as a youngster – leading to drug use and a life of crime. The former inmate told News24 his life changed after joining a prison ministry. 

“I didn’t think there was a need for me to change my life. But hearing the word of God led me to find myself,” he said. 

When he was released from jail in 2014, Dingiswayo joined the Message Trust and started selling ice cream at functions. The 30-year-old said it was the interactions he had with customers that motivated him to keep on the right path. 

“Seeing how much people value what we are doing and hearing our story. They were willing to support us. For me, that was like a second chance, people accepting me into the community.”

When Dingiswayo first went for barista training, he was not too clued-up about the different blends of coffee. 

“When I first started I didn’t know a lot about coffee… I only know about Ricoffy and tea,” he said laughing. 

Today, Dingiswayo has worked his way up the corporate ladder and is now a junior manager at the Mowbray branch. He plans to better his craft as he aims to compete in barista competitions in 2021.  

There are two Gangstar Café branches in Cape Town, and both are run by five former inmates.