"Literally a miracle": Violent rival gangs in South Africa call truce to help people during pandemic

South African gangs help people amid pandemic
South African gangs help people amid pandemic... 02:42

Last Updated Apr 18, 2020 6:54 PM EDT

Warring gangs in South Africa are working together in an unprecedented truce to deliver much-needed food to people under lockdown. The country has seen a 75% decrease in violent crime since it imposed strict restrictions over the coronavirus pandemic, and normally dangerous streets in Cape Town now see sworn enemies meeting up to collect essential goods to distribute throughout hungry communities. 

"What we're seeing happen here is literally a miracle," Pastor Andie Steele-Smith said to BBC News

Steel-Smith works with gang members in his community, many of whom are convicted killers.

"They are the best distributors in the country," he said. "They are used to distributing other white powders, but still they are distributing things and then, they know everybody." 

Preston Jacobs, a member of the "Americans" gang, told CBS News' Debora Patta it "feels nice" to take on a new role and communicate with those in need.

"Now I see there are nice people also, and people want to love what we're doing now," Jacobs said.

Sansi Hassan of the "Clever Kids" gang expressed hope that this current ceasefire in gang violence could be permanent in the post-lockdown future.

"If it can stay like this, then there will be no gang fight," he said. "And every gang will agree with us."

However, authorities who have been working for years to reduce the amount of gang violence in South Africa are still skeptical.

"I don't think it exonerates you when you've done so much evil," Cape Town Councilman JP Smith said. "One good deed doesn't suddenly wipe it all away. Maybe they can commit to more long-term good." 

Pastor Steel-Smith remains optimistic for his community.

"I am proud of you guys," he said to two gang members working to distribute essential goods. "If I died today and went to heaven, I would die a happy man."