Durban - Bongani Mngonyama, 31, whose eyes were gouged out in a horrific attack in KwaMashu 12 years ago, would like to become a social worker to help other victims of trauma.
Speaking to The Independent on Saturday this week, Mngonyama said while he had spent only nine days in the hospital after the brutal attack, in which two men had cut out his eyes, it had taken him years to come to terms with what had happened during his ordeal and the subsequent impact on his life.
Mngonyama, who was 19 at the time of the incident, was walking home in KwaMashu A section on a Friday night when he was robbed by two men. After robbing him of various items, they held him down as they removed his eyes.
It is suspected the criminals removed his eyes to prevent Mngonyama from identifying them as he had seen them previously in the area.
“They (police) didn't find them (the suspects). It was so difficult but I'm coping much better now. I feel I've accepted what happened to me,” said Mngonyama, who is currently in Pretoria on call-centre training.
The first few years of adjusting to being blind as well as dealing with the trauma of the attack took their toll and at one point he tried to commit suicide. His mother died within five months of the attack.
Five years after his ordeal, he turned to the KZN Blind & Deaf Society for help, starting with mobility training with a cane so he could get out and about.
“It really helped to meet other blind people who were in the same situation as I was and that white cane made such a difference. Unfortunately, it was lost on a taxi but since then I have another white cane from a friend.
“Since the attack, I have never been able to find work but I have learned Braille, had computer training and I am in Pretoria until December on call-centre training. I would also very much like to study and become a social worker to help other people,” he said.
Originally from Eshowe, Mngonyama still lives in KwaMashu where the attack took place and survives on a disability grant.
On Thursday, KZN Blind and Deaf director, Shamila Surjoo, said: “We are very pleased that Bongani is out there and currently getting training in Pretoria. If there's a tragedy where your life is literally changed overnight, you have to deal with an emotional roller-coaster. But with help, you can become a more confident person, you can go out and face the challenges of the world.”
At the time of the attack, there was an outpouring of public sympathy and help for Mngonyama, with a fund being set up through sister paper, Daily News. However, this money has since run out.
Soon after the attack, the chairperson of the KwaMashu Sector Policing Forum, Funizwe Myeza, who was helping police track down possible suspects, was gunned down outside his shop in KwaMashu A Section. He was shot in the head three times.
Although there has never been any definite link between the two incidents, SAPS spokesperson at that time, Velaphi Zulu, said: “Myeza was one of the people we trusted and he was working well with us in trying to make sure Mngonyama’s attackers were brought to book. He was a true community leader.”
He said police had approached Myeza to set up a meeting in the area to discuss how Mngonyama’s attackers could be traced. No arrests were made for the attack.
The Independent on Saturday