ENOS Samupinya Ndou was on the verge of giving up any hope that he will ever see his Zimbabwean family again after starting a new life in South Africa 44 years ago.
Ndou, who was born in Beitbridge’s Dite area, crossed the border into South Africa together with his uncle in 1974 as a fresh-faced 15-year-old in search of the so-called greener pastures.
He travelled for about 1 000 km to the Badplaas area in Mpumalanga province where he found a job at farm.
Ndou lost contact with his family in Beitbridge and has a family in Badplaas that did not know anything about his Zimbabwean roots.
He had lost hope of reuniting with his Zimbabwean family, but his uncle Samson Ndou, now a Zanu PF councillor in Dite never stopped trying to find his lost nephew.
Samson approached the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for help. The ICRC runs a missing and deceased migrants project that helps people like Ndou to reconnect with their families.
After locating Ndou in the Badplass area where he was living with his son Boyick and a girlfriend Flora Gomba, the ICRC organised an emotional reunion that left the now 59-year-old in tears.
“I am so happy,” he said when he saw his uncle for the first time in 44 years.
“I am now at peace with myself and even if I am to die today I will do so in peace,” an emotional Ndou added.
“My ancestors helped my family to trace me to this place.”
His friend Fabion Manyisa, who was at the homestead during the reunion, said he had seen many immigrants dying as paupers because they could not reconnect with their families.
“He was going to be buried like a dog if he had passed on before this day,” he said. “Many people that have worked here suffered that fate, but I am happy his people have found him.
“When he came here we believed we were going to lead better lives but that was never the case.”
Unita Ndou, an ICRC restoring family links field officer, said Ndou’s reunion with his family was the 20th such feat, but still has a task to help 72 more
people on her list.
Her work involves weeks in the field hoping from one farm to another, using pictures and other data provided by families seeking their missing relatives. Unita also works with South African police in an effort to trace hundreds of missing Zimbabweans either living or who died in South Africa.
“When we deliver good news it is one of the most happy moments of my job for me and ICRC,” she said.
“However, sometimes we get to discover that the person is dead and we have to carry the message back to the family. It is one of the most difficult messages to
Her job is made more the difficult by the fact that some people change their identities when they move to South Africa to avoid deportation.
Hilton Zvidzai from the ICRC said they had a database they shared with police in South Africa to track missing immigrants on behalf of their families.
“The database is only be used for humanitarian tracking of deceased and missing people,” he said. “The agreement is that police cannot use the data we give
them to chase after criminals.”
Zvidzai said the ICRC was handling 100 cases under the programme, which was still at a pilot phase.
At least 20 cases have been concluded and one person was found to have died.
“We are going to have to spread to the rest of the country and engage more partners,”Zvidzai added. “We would want to work with those who believe they can help
restore family links.”
There is no reliable data of Zimbabweans living in South Africa, most of them economic refugees, but it is believed that millions have found sanctuary in the
neighbouring country over the years.
— The Standard