Walter Maqabaza

Grace is defined (in Christian belief) as the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings. Walter Maqabaza's testimony is one of sheer mercy and grace. Paul received mercy from God when he met Jesus Christ and went on to win the souls of throngs of gentiles for the Kingdom of God. Walter Maqabaza was once one of the most feared criminals in Port Elizabeth but today this vessel is being used to turn the hearts of men back to God.

Sunday the 11th of February 1990 marked the end of late South African statesman's, President Nelson Mandela, 27 year prison sentence. My two year training in the military was over and another chapter of my life was about to begin. Although the era of Apartheid was wrapping up by law, the only way that my heart would be at peace was to take revenge against the white race for all the blood of black people they shed without a second thought.

After the promises that government had for all who were training in the military before then (both internally and externally) fell through I turned to a life of crime both to live and to quench my thirst for blood. Armed robbery became my tool for survival. I robbed banks, business offices, farms of money and any type of valuable I found, along with the rest of my gang. Drugs, women, firearms, ammunition became part and parcel of my being. Anyone and everyone was subject to my mercy when a firearm was in hand, not even my family members were exempt.

In the year 2000 my fellow gang members and I conspired to rob a well known church in Port Elizabeth and we went through with it. On arrival we held the church office bearers and kitchen staff hostage, tying them with cables taken from their computer and telephone lines, and shot and wounded anyone who showed signs of resistance. After taking a trunk loaded with money and jewellery we realised that something was amiss. Somehow the police caught wind and swooped in on us in their numbers, clad with powerful ammunition, and helicopters also hovering above us. Seeing that our plan was botched we frantically separated in an effort to flee and escape arrest but I sadly the route I chose took me right into the arms of the police and they arrested me. I was sentenced to 31 years (16 years for armed robbery and 15 years for the possession of illegal firearms and ammunition). I heard later that my fellow gang members were shot and died on the scene of the crime. 

I became a head honcho in the most powerful gang in South African prisons, the number 28s. After serving almost a third of my sentence I was released on parole on the 1st of October 2009 and ventured straight back into my old ways, not caring about being arrested again.

In July 2014 I heard that Jesus Dominion International was going to hold a service at the Centenary Hall in my neighbourhood, New Brighton. People in the area had told us that the church was financially blessed and people gave offerings unto God in large amounts. I told my friends about it and we decided to go, of course, our sole purpose being to spy the land before robbing the church and the members. God, on the other hand had a different plan in mind.

My friends sat at the back of the auditorium and for some reason unknown to me I sat close to the front, occasionally looking back at them and exchanging signals. When the man of God, Rev. Tim Omotoso, walked in everyone knelt down to honour him and the God he carries but I stood firmly on my feet. At that point I did not understand anything and my heart questioned everything that my eyes beheld. After praising God for several minutes the man of God made an altar call to all those who wanted to receive salvation. I had not planned to be amongst those who wanted to receive Christ but when the man of God said, "All have sinned, including I," the walls I had built around my heart broke down and I just saw myself going towards the altar to receive salvation. That statement touched me in the depths of my heart because I had never heard a minister of God speak that way. People like me feel that there is no place in a church for us and churches shun us away when we reveal our true identities to them. That statement was profound and that alone made me to relinquish crime and receive salvation, without looking back.

The man of God often says that the best form of deliverance is self-deliverance so I have inculcated his teachings of the Word of God into my life, without dilution and without compromise. Fasting, prayer, giving, praising and evangelising the Gospel of Jesus Christ has become daily living. Crime is a road that only leads to regret. All of my friends are either in prison serving life sentences of or have died on streets like chickens. I gave committed the most heinous and gruesome crimes but God still spared me using his son, Rev. Tim Omotoso. "Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: (Romans 5:20)"