Call on churches, 10 000 intercessors, to join in 5-point plan to take back communities
“We were just dozing off inside, when we heard a number of shots go off. I ran to the window and then I realised that the shots had been right outside our house. Leroy had been shot in the head, and was found lying on the back seat of the taxi.
“As far as I know, he was an innocent and lovely person. It’s a tragedy, but it also makes us very nervous. If (the gunmen) can be so bold, there’s nothing to stop them from walking in the front door and doing the same to us.” — This was the eyewitness account of one resident of Manenberg, Cape Town, recently about the tragic shooting of a young man in front of her house; a regular experience of life in this gang-controlled township where anyone is a potential shooting target.
Cities such as Johannesburg and Cape Town, in particular, have experienced unprecedented levels of gang-based violence. The most recent police statistics show 2 300 murders in the Western Cape between April 2011 and March 2012 – an average of more than six people murdered a day. Numerous efforts by government, to stem the tide of gang-related violence have been made but this toxic phenomenon, that’s been destroying the fabric of our communities for years, is still prevalent.
The good news is that the battle against gangsterism can be won. At least that is the conviction of Joseph Miller, a Pastor, husband and father of 2 children, who has committed his life to providing a solution to gang violence in South Africa. He has the heart and courage to go where many brave men fear to tread. And he has previously tasted success in the struggle against gangsterism in Gauteng.
Call to ministry with gangs
“After completing my Diploma in Theology at Cape Evangelical Bible Institute in Athlone [now named Cornerstone Higher Education Institute] God called me at an early age into the ministry, to work with gangs and gangsters”, said Miller.
His ministry with the gangsters commenced in 1998, in a township called Eersterust, on the outskirts of Pretoria. Currently, he works with gangsters in Manenberg, Belhar and Delft, Heideveld, and the greater part of Cape Town.
“To give accurate statistics on gang or gang related deaths is extremely difficult. The reason being, most gang deaths, unless reported, go undetected. A rough estimate of people that have been affected by gang violence in Manenberg is around 30 000. If the gangsters are allowed to continue as they are doing at the moment, mayhem will prevail in these poor communities. Threats, gang-rule and fear will be the order of the day”, Miller was at pains to explain.
With God’s help, Miller and his ministry team achieved significant success with gangsterism in Eersterust and living conditions in the area noticeably improved. In 1998 and 1999, with Miller as mediator, four gangs (a total of 500 gang members) made a peace pact. For about five years after that, crime went down in Eersterust. Most of the learners went back to school, several gang members found work and some even completed grade 12 and went on to study at universities of their choice.
“There is a big change in community life in Eersterust today, compared to what it was previously. You don’t read about many gang-related incidents in Eersterust, in the newspaper as before. Safety in the area has greatly improved. Unlike a few years ago, today people walk more freely in Eersterust. There is a greater awareness about the problem of gangsterism in the community. You still have a form of gangsterism that is prevalent, but it is by no means as it was before,” said Miller.
Recently Miller started working with gangs in Manenberg, Heideveld, Delft and Belhar. He believes that he will achieve the same success in these Cape Town suburbs that he had in Eersterust.
5-Point Plan that worked in Eerstrust
“We had a five point plan that we applied in Eerstrust and I believe that, if we get the same support in Cape Town, we will have the same success in gang-controlled areas here”, said Miller.
Miller and his ministry team execute their tried-and-tested Five Point Plan in the following manner:
1. They facilitate intensive prayer sessions, with various churches in the affected areas, for a period of three months. During this time they do prayer walks through the streets.
2. Personal contact is then made with the leaders of individual gangs. The purpose of these meetings with the gang leaders is to get every leader around the table and get a commitment to peace from them. He tries to get gang leaders to agree to allow any gang member to leave the gang, without any retaliation from the gang that they belonged to.
3. The gang ministry works very closely with the police and reformed gangsters. Under police protection, Miller and his team mediate in family feuds or rivalry between the gangs. Gang awareness programs are facilitated in the schools, under police protection. Regular devotions take place at the police station with the police staff. Reformed gangsters are also included in the negotiations with gangs because of the credibility they have with gangsters. Their role in establishing peace agreements between gangs is extremely important.
4. A day is set aside where a peace signing agreement is arranged with the gangs. This takes the form of a church service, and in this service they sign the agreement, with specific conditions. At this meeting all the gangs are represented, as well as the other gangs that they were associated with. The Minister of Police, senior representatives of the police force, the parents and families of those gangsters, school principals and the pastors of the respective churches in the area, also attend this particular church service.
5. Support structures are then set in place to assist all rehabilitated gangsters and their families. This initiative includes job creation and helping families with food.
“We firmly believe that this model will bring results in Manenberg and other gang strongholds in Cape Town. Gangsterism can be overcome in the Western Cape. The way to go is if all Churches pull their weight and play their part. Church members must pray seriously about the situation and church leaders, all over South Africa, must look for ways to be part of the solution”, said Miller.
“You must understand that the problem in the Western Cape is very broad and therefore I appeal to all the pastors that we raise 10 000 prayer intercessors over the whole of the Western Cape, i.e. 250 to 500 per area. These intercessors must pray in their communities at various churches for a period of 90 days, in order to eradicate the forces of darkness. Then do the prayer walks and trust God for the salvation of gangsters. This is not a quick fix. This is an ongoing, long term methodology”, he said.
Miller says that although his life has been in danger many times , the Lord has always been his protector. “With courage and boldness, in the power of the Holy Spirit, we can liberate our broken communities from the stronghold that the evil one wants to impose on them”, he said.