From Russian mafioso to prisoner to preacher

Ex-convict Jaun Truter speaks to CapeTalk presenter Sara-Jayne King about his life story - involved in the Russian mafia, involved in drugs, assault, blackmail - which resulted in him serving time in Pollsmoor Prison, Cape Town.

Truter grew up in Brackenfell, Cape Town in what he describes as 'a normal family'. He explains how his father started abusing alcohol when he was in his teens, which caused him to behave abusively towards his mother and himself.

He says his mother promised to take him out of the abusive home as soon as he completed his matric. He kept his end of the bargain but says his mother gave up and committed suicide after he received his matric results.

Jaun moved out of the house and lived on the streets until he managed to get himself a job in Bellville. The car his mother bought for him just before she died became his home after work, and when he was trusted enough to hold the office key at his job, that also became his home.

One day a colleague walked in on him still sleeping in the office, but instead of criticising or judging him, they were kind enough to help him get a place of his own, he says.

And I decided I never want to find myself in a situation like that anymore.

Jaun Truter, Ex-convict and author

I started a second job to get some extra money and I got into the bouncing scene. I did bouncing for about nine years.

Jaun Truter, Ex-convict and author

At one point I got attacked by a group of guys and I got stabbed in the face in which I lost sight in my left eye.

Jaun Truter, Ex-convict and author

I got filled with rage and anger and that just kind of created a little bit of a monster. I went to the guys and I said I want to find these guys and I want to kill them...

Jaun Truter, Ex-convict and author

Truter started on his mission to find his attackers and in the process ruffled a few people. He got noticed by one of the mafia organisations, and started doing collections and becoming involved in other shady dealings.

Word got out that I was linked to these guys. The next thing I was untouchable, just living this hectic life.

Jaun Truter, Ex-convict and author

You rock up at a club, you don't get searched, you don't pay, you just walk in anywhere...

Jaun Truter, Ex-convict and author

Because of his links to the mafia, Truter found himself in jail a few times but eventually, someone would come and bail him out and life would continue as normal, he recalls.

Eventually, he got tired of the life he was living and felt guilty of all the wrongdoings. He says he said a little prayer and thought to himself maybe he should just get arrested and stay in jail for a while - instead of doing what he was doing.

As he said that, he remembers, a voice said to him "so be it".

Two days later he found himself facing 13 charges. The lawyer that he trusted died of a heart attack, his cronies got arrested for smuggling diamond, and he had no one to call on to bail him out.

He awaited trial for two years and was eventually sentenced to 10 years imprisonment at Pollsmoor Prison.

Once I got sentenced and I heard them say 10 years - then it hit me. What's going to happen to my life? When I get out of prison after 10 years, I'm going to be old.

Jaun Truter, Ex-convict and author

The very first night of my sentence I walked into Medium B on this long passage, they call it the N1, and I thought I'd rather commit suicide than live here.

Jaun Truter, Ex-convict and author

You know God has a sense of humour... I signed up for a course and they told me it was about basic principles of Christianity. I said man, don't waste my time, but there was tea and biscuits...

Jaun Truter, Ex-convict and author

Truter is now the head of the Prison Ministry and Caring for Ex-offenders program of the very prison in which he served time, and has turned his life around.

Truter has written a book about his life, as told to Leon Steenkamp, called Van Pollsmoor Tot Prediker.

To hear the rest of Juan Truter's remarkable story, listen below:


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