TALES OF COURAGE: I have forgiven my attackers

Thursday December 21 2017

Mzee Josephat Chonga with son Oscar Sangawho

Mzee Josephat Chonga with his son Oscar Sangawho at their home in Mwezamoyo, Kilifi County on November 6, 2017. PHOTO | SAMUEL KAZUNGU | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By KAZUNGU SAMUEL
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Sunday night of May 3, 2008 will forever linger in the memory of Josephat Chonga.

Death came knocking at his door as a gang of five, armed with crude weapons and blunt objects, raided his house in Mwezamoyo, Kilifi.

They took his family hostage and clobbered him senselessly saying they had been sent to kill him.

CONFINED TO WHEELCHAIR

As a retired banker, the attack shattered his life, leaving him disabled. At 66, Mzee Chonga is now confined to a wheelchair after the attackers broke his spine.

In a recent interview with Nation.co.ke, the father of seven tearfully narrated the ordeal: “It was at around 1am when I heard people talking in the sitting room. I opened my bedroom door and within a split second one entered my room and pounced on me.

“I managed to get a panga (machete) that I had always kept hidden and injured him in the left shoulder. He ran out and told his accomplices what I had done and this is when they came with a vengeance. They hit me and I became unconscious. When I came to, I found myself at the emergency room in Kilifi County Hospital,” he says.

He lost consciousness a second time and when he woke up he was now at the Coast General Hospital in Mombasa. He was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for a week before being moved to the normal ward.

His wife Christine says they spent seven months at the hospital: “My husband was discharged in December 2008. The doctors told us he would never walk again. The x-ray images showed that the spinal cord was badly injured and too weak to properly function.”

Mzee Josephat Chonga and his wife Christine

Mzee Josephat Chonga and his wife Christine at their home in Mwezamoyo, Kilifi County on November 6, 2017.PHOTO | SAMUEL KAZUNGU | NATION MEDIA GROUP

SPENT SH3MILLION

According to her, they spent over Sh3 million in treatment which was most of their life savings and now have to cater for all his physical needs. “I do almost everything for him; bathe, clothe and feed him. Sometimes if I am not around, my children attend to him. It is a tedious task but we are his family and must be there for him.”

Mzee Chonga had worked at Barclays Bank in Mombasa and Malindi from 1975 to 1998 and was now living on his retirement package when his life was turned upside down.

It was after his release from hospital that reality hit home and he lost all hope. He even called his parents and told them to prepare for the worst. “I was always in pain and I could not move. It was then that I instructed my parents to make burial preparations,” he said.

His wife on the other hand refused to give up on him and decided to pray for divine intervention. Unfortunately, Mzee Chonga's situation deteriorated. He developed a swollen wound at the waist which had a foul smell emanating from it.

“Everyone abandoned us but I thank my family, especially my wife and children for taking care of me in hospital and even at home. They are my pillar of hope,” he says.

His son Erick Mwambogo said the attack ruined their life but made them a stronger family. “We were shunned by our extended family but we have stuck together.”

CONFESSED THE CRIME

In an unexpected twist of events, Mzee Chonga has since forgiven his attackers. He narrates how four years after the incident, a stranger came to his home and intimated that one of the attackers had confessed the crime to him.

“I told him to report the matter to police or the village elder, but he never returned, and the same year, another person claiming to be a brother to one of the attackers came and said that he (the criminal) was sorry about what he did and was now serving a jail sentence. I told him to tell his brother that I had forgiven them and he should leave the rest to God,” he said.

The greatest lesson Mzee Chonga says the incident taught him is that life can change in an instant. “In all my years I never thought I would end up in a wheelchair totally dependant on other people but this was God's plan.”