Calvin Kevin Ilunga Kongolo

Born 30th August 1999 Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo

Died 4th June 2020 Cape Town, South Africa

Tribute by Karen Louise Fletcher

A young Kevin second from left

Let me start this by saying I did not know Kevin. His suicide had a profound impact on me. I wanted his story to be told – so I shared a Facebook post.

Which went viral – 2300 Shares. It got 241 Comments!

A friend of mine – Reverend Natalie Angela Barnard of St Andrews Presbyterian Church in Somerset Road, Cape Town – lives at the end of Monastery Road, a cul-de-sac in Sea Point, Cape Town. Kevin ended his life by hanging himself with a dog leash on the fence outside her house at 11:13am on Thursday 4th June 2020.

The Facebook post

Kevin had been in Sea Point earlier and reached out to a young man who was walking two Labradors past the house. This guy had a music ball and was playing with his charges while Kevin stood by. Kevin indicated he was in distress and needed help. Reverend Natalie went to look out the front door and saw the young man with the Labradors.

She didn’t see Kevin.

A neighbour may have been concerned, as it’s usually a very quiet street, and alerted crime prevention. It’s also possible that crime prevention was aware of someone with no purpose in the cul-de-sac as there’s a video camera looking out to that exact spot. They came past and chatted to the men.

I traced the man with the dogs. He said he was nervous of being near a stranger due to Covid-19. He directed Kevin to the local police station and left. Video footage showed him pointing in the direction of Sea Point, SAPS (South African Police Services). Crime prevention found this man later still walking the dogs, recognised him, and alerted him to Kevin’s suicide.

He has been struggling with agonising guilt at not realising the extent of Kevin’s anguish.

I also spoke to the crime prevention company. They said their guys had asked Kevin to move on. Kevin said he wasn’t moving. He had nowhere to go. They could call the police, beat him up. He didn’t care anymore. The security staff in the van opted to leave him alone as he wasn’t causing a disturbance.

About 20 minutes later, Reverend Natalie heard noise again and went to see what was going on. She saw the crime prevention vehicles were back. And what she thought was a man standing next to her fence. It was the body of Kevin hanging with his head to one side and his one leg slightly bent. Crime prevention phoned SAPS, who called the medics. When they were removing his body, she asked if they were sure it was a suicide and the medical officer said he was sure. Video camera footage had captured Kevin’s last moments which is how we know the exact time his soul left his body.

Reverend Natalie and myself saw the footage a few days later and it’s clear – Kevin was going to take his life. Why did he choose that exact spot? He had a dog leash, a current refugee permit, a notepad, a basic mobile phone, a C.V. and a bible in his backpack. No jacket. No snacks. No money. His backpack was almost empty.

His only means of taking his life was the single dog leash he had in his possession.

Most houses have solid concrete walls or electric fencing. The house Reverend Natalie lives in, has a fence that was high enough, a means to hook the dog leash, and was in a quiet spot.

The spot where Kevin took his life

We could see from the video footage that Kevin would have found another place to end his short life if circumstances at Reverend Natalie’s house were not conducive to it. He put his bag down across the road. Paced. Looked at the fence. Held up the dog leash to check the height. He sat down on the pavement. He spoke to himself. A lot. Reverend Natalie and I think he was praying. Then he took off his cap and put it beside him on the pavement. Kevin put the leash around his neck but couldn’t quite hook it at the top of the fence. So, he removed the leash and jumped, hooking the dog leash to the top of the fence. He then wiggled between the streetlight and the fence to slide his head into the loop. He jumped down. Kevin could have saved himself. All he needed to do was stand on his tip toes. But he didn’t. He pulled his legs up. Kevin wanted to go. He was tired of life. It took no more than 5 minutes. Movement ceased. It was all over.

SAPS spoke to Reverend Natalie, and I spoke to crime prevention who had seen the video footage. The consensus was emphatic – it was a suicide. No foul play.

I needed to find out how he got to a point of no return.

Reverend Natalie found him still warm and prayed for his soul during the time various departments were outside her house attending to the situation. She promised him a proper funeral.

He was removed by mortuary services about 3 hours after his demise. It’s not the first time Reverend Natalie has encountered someone who has passed on, but one thing she said was – he looked so peaceful. She also said Kevin was thin.

Kevin walking dogs

Kevin was a Congolese national with a valid refugee permit for South Africa. He had no criminal record.

He was 21 years old.

I heard the story from Reverend Natalie later that evening – which led to my emotional Facebook post.

So many people had been in dire straits during Lock Down. Lots of fellow Africans do not qualify for grants, UIF, TERS or welfare in South Africa. Food aid has been politicised with non-South Africans excluded from assistance schemes. Borders are closed. Non-South Africans couldn’t go back home, where at least family or friends would help. And the thing is, these fellow Africans came to South Africa because their home countries were war torn. They came to South Africa for a better life!

Kevin was born to Ilunga Kongolo Lutumba (father) and Mbiya Mufuta Jeanine (mother) in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo. It’s at the lower end of the DRC close to the Zambian border.

Kevin lost his mother when he was an infant. Kevin’s mother was not his father’s only wife. He had an older wife before her. Kevin was her only child. My understanding is Kevin has 7 older siblings scattered between the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, and South Africa.

Kevin with dogs

There is confusion relating to Kevin’s early life and it’s a source of much distress to the brother I met. What is apparent is there wasn’t the closest relationship between Kevin and his relatives. Kevin went to live with his mother’s brothers John and Papi Isula. Kevin’s siblings remember him coming to stay with his father for a few days at a time, but they were much older than him. Some had already relocated from the DRC. Contact was intermittent. Infrequent. Kevin’s contact details were not always consistent. At times, he was without a phone.

Kevin’s story continues – here.

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