18 July 2019 | Story Valentino Ndaba | Photo Evert Kleynhans
Heidedal Drug Awareness Campaign
Pastor shares with Heidedal learners how drugs landed him in prison.

His father died when he was just three years old. A mourning single mother had to raise three boys. As the middle child, feeling abandoned and unloved, he joined a gang. Home was a cold and empty place and so were the streets of Grabouw, a small town in the Western Cape where he grew up. This is how Ivor Swartz’s story began.

A 15-year-old Swartz told himself: “Because I am not loved at home, maybe I will feel loved on the streets.” It did not take long for the ugly truth to emerge. When it did, he turned to drugs for comfort.

Behind bars

One evening when Swartz and a friend were at a local tavern, they were involved in an altercation. They pulled out guns and fired shots at two males. “My judgement was clouded by the drugs so my friend and I shot my blood brother,” he remorsefully reminisces. 

From prisoner to pastor

Swartz was imprisoned for six-and-a-half years, during which time he matriculated. He has been a free man for 14 years. For the past five years Swartz has been a youth pastor at St. Paul’s United Church in Johannesburg. He has also trained as a life coach and holds an Honours degree in Theology from the University of Pretoria.

Swartz shared the story of how drugs almost ruined his future with 1100 Olympia Primary School learners in Heidedal recently. He was the guest speaker at a two-day Community Outreach Drug Awareness campaign led by the University of the Free State’s (UFS) Division for Organisational Development and Employee Wellness.

Compassionate beyond campus

Burneline Kaars, Head of the Division, said the campaign is one of the ways in which the university shows that it cares for the community. “We strive to improve the wellbeing of staff and the community at large.”

Swartz and the UFS team visited seven schools in Heidedal from 10-11 July 2019. where they cautioned future leaders and parents against how drugs shape the choices that individuals make. 

Pursuing a better story

Swartz was sitting in solitary confinement when he heard a song by UK singer Robbie Williams. The lyrics were: “Cause I got too much life running through my veins going to waste.” These words changed his life.

“I decided I wanted a better life,” said Swartz. He now lives to make a positive contribution to society and has written a new conclusion to his life’s story.

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