Gabriel Mambe Kasonga has been homeless in Cape Town since 2015. He, along with a group of fellow asylum seekers, came to South Africa in 2008 to escape the devastation wrought by decades of war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Vanessa Frankal and a group of Sea Point samaritans have helped Gabriel get off the streets and soon he will return to his family.
For years, Gabriel’s life was good in South Africa, according to Good Things Guy. He was able to financially support himself and rent a room in Maitland by working in security for seven years. Then, he fell ill and everything changed.
“After getting sick, losing his job, being unsupported with renewing his asylum papers, having his bank account frozen, and being put out on the street due to not being able to pay rent, he found himself homeless,” said Vanessa.
If you walk the sea point beachfront in the morning you will notice this wonderful man whose name I finally found out…
When he started living on the streets, Gabriel would not sleep at night but apparently sought protection by standing against a wall outside Caledon Square police station and he would rest his legs during the daytime. He continued to do this for five years.
Gabriel managed to find work, according to Vanessa: “He helped traders at 4am and again at 6pm pushing their trolleys for R20/day. This job was ‘coveted’ by many homeless, & they envied Gabriel.”
Last year, in 2019, Gabriel was attacked by two men while on the way to work at 4am. He was allegedly stabbed in the neck, torso and arms — “I’ve seen the horrible scars,” said Vanessa.
In his injured state, he managed to make it to the Caledon Square police station. He was taken to Somerset Hospital and after a week of recovering there, he returned to the streets.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Gabriel relocated to Sea Point, where he would walk the beachfront during the day and perch himself on a bench outside the Sea Point police station at night.
Gabriel and Vanessa crossed paths in Sea Point. Vanessa says she was taken in by Gabriel’s “humble and gentle demeanour” and they eventually became friends. He told her his life story and she decided to do her utmost to help him.
She turned to social media to generate support and awareness for Gabriel and the response was awesome. A woman named Dana Lazerson started cooking for him every day; Brittany Potgieter, “a Facebook stranger”, gave him thermal underwear, an adult colouring book and felt-tip pens, while a woman named Teresa Woods Zive gave him toiletries and bags of food.
Gabriel’s eyesight had been deteriorating and a Sea Point optometrist helped out by offering him an eye test and a pair of reading glasses at a reduced price, which allowed him to easily read the text on his phone.
Vanessa described this as “[a] beautiful joint effort by strangers.”
She helped him get into a shelter — the Youth Solutions Winter Program — in Salt River and when she offered him a job, Gabriel asked if he could return home instead.
36-year-old Gabriel’s family — including his parents, seven siblings and former girlfriend, Susan — are still in the DRC, according to Vanessa.
A crowdfund — Getting Gabriel Going — was set up on October 22 to raise the R30 000 required to send Gabriel home. The money was earmarked to be spent on airfare, setting up his life in the DRC, obtaining an emergency travel document and a COVID-19 test.
The campaign was immensely successful and two days later, on October 24, the target was reached and the necessary arrangements could be made.
AND JuST LIKE THAT ITS DONE!! 😍🤞🏽🤎🎯 Vanessa Dubovsky Frank bless your lovely I and his big heart who filled “the tube”…
“They located Gabriel’s family, booked his flight and started filling a suitcase with things that he could use back home. New clothes and shoes, a travel bag, gifts for his family and more,” according to Good Things Guy.
Gabriel left Cape Town for Johannesburg on November 3, according to a Facebook post by Vanessa, in which she thanked all the people who have assisted Gabriel on his remarkable journey.
“Gabriel touched my heart, and a few others I think. Teresa Woods Zive went out of her way to drive the campaign and arrange logistics which made it possible for him to get on a plane on Thursday this week to Lubumbashi,” she said.