Healing for the heart

The 1980s might seem a long time ago for most people, but for those who lost loved ones during the struggle against apartheid, the passing of the years can never completely heal the wounds.

This is the experience of Nyameka Goniwe, whose husband, Matthew a United Democratic Front in the Eastern Cape, was killed along with three others near Cradock in 1985. In the 16 years since his death, Nyameka has worked through her emotions to try come to terms with his loss.

Since February this year, through the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, she has set up the Community Healing Project in Cradock to allow people to talk about the pain inflicted on their community during the 1980s and to share the problems that persist.

“This is a fairly new project and some people are not aware of it but we are in a process of letting it be known by the public. What is important is to drive this healing process to heal the sore wounds of the past,” says Goniwe.

In October, Goniwe facilitated a visit by families and relatives to the sites where people had died in the struggle against apartheid. Among the areas visited was the place where the Cradock Four were murdered. “By visiting these sites we were trying to close a gap. What we did gave us a sense of closure. We were also trying to claim the sites as sacred places” she adds.

Does she feel she has healed? “I cannot say that I’m healed enough because healing of the soul takes time and it depends on each and every individual, but what I believe in is that the wound will never get healed without always bumping on it.”

Goniwe added that she is fortunate that she was exposed to many debates and interviews that allowed her to talk about her pain. She says the more she talks about her pain the more she contributes to her own healing. The healing project in Cradock is a way for her to share this process with her former community.

She says so far the group is talking about their experiences of the past.

The group includes people who were directly involved in the struggle, the families or communities who watched atrocities happened to their loved ones and generally people who need to talk about the pain and suffering they witnessed from simply living in the area.

Nyameka says there’s nothing that can compensate her for her pain. Money cannot give her back her life and she believes that healing must come from within one’s heart. She says her children are quiet about the way they feel, but she hopes that they will also be helped through the process of healing and one day they’ll be able to talk out whatever they feel about what happened to their father.

On November 11, the film about her life entitled, “Nyameka’s Story” will be launched in Cradock.

* You can hear Nyameka Goniwe talking in isiXhosa about her life and the healing process she has undergone in a separate audio story on this website.

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