Growing up I never knew my biological family. I was abandoned at birth, found near Slovo in Umtata. The woman who found me, Velamina, took me to the police station; who then handed me over to UNICEF child welfare. While the social workers went about finding my family, I was sent from province to province and eventually placed at an orphanage called Othandweni Children’s Home. I did not understand what was going on, but it did not matter. For me life was great.
From time to time I would receive visits from the UNICEF social workers. They would check up on me and sometimes bring clothes, sweets and goodies. One day they came and took me to the welfare offices – there was a breakthrough with my case! The team had used every measure possible: newspapers, radio, hospital notice boards, and police station gazettes.
At the office was a man who had read a newspaper article about a child found in Slovo, and he had apparently had a fight with the mother of his child; who was due to give birth around about the time I was found.
This man's name was Mlamli Tanga. He was originally from Nqamakhwe, but was residing in the Mtata Male Hostels. After some talks between the social workers and this man, who at the time was sure that he is my biological father, social workers gave him custody. And that is how my surname became Tanga. The police then began to search for my mother.
Feeling lost and alone
A very young lady alleged to be my biological mother was found with two babies who were assumed to be my siblings. Then my so-called father lost his job and became so aggressive that he would wake me up in the middle of the night and tell me that I’m not his son, that I am Ndlamini’s son.
I was taken back to Othandweni.
At age 10 I was moved to my second orphanage – St. Philomena's Children’s Home, a Roman Catholic institution. I then started to have questions about my identity and belonging. I developed anger towards myself, and lost interest in school and playing with other children. I became very aggressive because I believed that nobody loved me and that I was unwanted. Holidays were the worst times because other children would go home to their families and only a few of us would remain. The staff of the home would do the best they can to make sure we were well, we would go out on camping trips, beach visits and a whole lot of exciting things but deep in my heart I felt rejected because I needed a family to proudly call me their own.
A hard knock life
Years later I became a street kid, begged on the streets, smoked drugs, stole for a living, robbed, broke into people’s houses and basically became a notorious gangster. I was recruited by a crime syndicate who went by the name of “The Destroyers". I was recruited as a drug smuggler and informer. Eventually I was arrested and sent to prison.
Six months into my sentence I decided to study. Aunty V, one of the care-givers and director at St. Philomena’s, visited me in prison. She brought me books and messages of support from people l knew from St. Philomena’s, including my godfather Uncle Patrick. When I was baptised at church I chose him as my godfather and Sister Mary as my godmother. I gradually began to understand myself as an individual. Aunty V instilled important lessons of forgiveness in me, and showed me that the very first person I had to forgive was MYSELF. And so, my journey into healing began. Ten months into my sentence I received parole.
In November 2013 I decided that I will never let my background pull me down. January 2014 I went to Cape Peninsula University of Technology to study IT. November 2014 I was financially disqualified. I also found out that my mother had breast cancer. I was forced to find a job to provide for my mother and siblings. By the grace of God, I got a scholarship with Microsoft to do a business intelligence course. At the same time, I was on internship and received a stipend. I could provide for my family.
I crashed, I suffered, I failed. But I am still standing.
I lost my daughter to cancerRead more about I lost my daughter to cancer
You may also like
We need our elders' stories
When elders share their stories, it bridges generational gaps, fosters understanding, and creates a sense of continuity between the past, present and future.Read more about We need our elders' stories
Foreign nationals talk about their struggles in finding a home away from home
The Sister Mura Foundation is providing medical, financial, and emotional support while upskilling foreign nationals living with HIV/AIDS in SA.Read more about Foreign nationals talk about their struggles in finding a home away from home
David’s love letter
His only connection to his birth mother is a letter, two pieces of gold jewellery, and a teddy bear. Now he wants to know more about the mother who gave him up for adoption as a baby.Read more about David’s love letter
A dream deferred leads to a life of leadership and success
Olefile Masangane has achieved what he thought would be impossible.Read more about A dream deferred leads to a life of leadership and success
Sharing her story to heal the wounds of her past
She has no regrets about her past despite a childhood filled with abuse and trauma.Read more about Sharing her story to heal the wounds of her past
Storytelling breaks stereotypes about criminals
Father Babychan Arackathara has been working as a chaplain in SA’s prisons for over 20 years. He is an advocate of the human rights of prisoners and restorative justice, bringing healing to offenders as well as victims and their families.Read more about Storytelling breaks stereotypes about criminals