‘We had to leave everything and just run’
“IT WAS absolute chaos. We had to flee from our home after a war broke out between rebels and the government in Congo. People were getting killed in my city, homes were being destroyed. We didn’t even have time to gather any of our possessions. We had to leave everything behind and just start running, otherwise we too would be killed.
“In the midst of all the chaos, I lost my wife and my two children. They were right next to me, but when I turned around again I couldn’t see them anywhere. I had lost them in the crowd of people. I panicked, I started shouting their names, but no one could hear me in all the chaos and firing of guns.
“I carried on running to find a place of safety and I hoped that I would run into my family. But I didn’t see them.
“I couldn’t fall asleep that night. I was worried sick about my family. Over the next few weeks I searched for my family, but I couldn’t find them. The war had escalated and things had gotten really bad.
“I made a decision to flee Congo and come to South Africa, otherwise I would be killed. I still had hope that my family were alive but I couldn’t take the risk of staying in Congo any longer. It was the hardest decision I had ever made but I had to leave Congo. I was a businessman, but I had to walk away from everything.
“I arrived in Joburg in 2007 to start a fresh life away from the war. It hurt not being with my family. I have had a hard life, but there was nothing I could do.
“I didn’t hear from my family for the next six years. I wondered every single day whether they were okay, whether they were even alive. It ate me up.
“In 2013, I got a call from an unknown number from Congo. It was my daughter. I burst into tears. She had managed to track me down somehow. We spoke for hours; she told me that my son was alive and living in Congo.
“My daughter told me she was busy with her final year at school and as soon as she is done she would come and stay with me in South Africa.
“I also learnt that my wife had remarried. I was heartbroken, but I don’t blame her. Circumstances forced us apart. I’ve been in South Africa for 10 years. Life is much better than in Congo.
“However, I hope that I can be reunited with my family one day. Only then will I be able to be fully happy again.”
Didier Nnzolani, Johannesburg