Nahum Delport


Nahum Delport tells us how a traumatic situation and his need to prove himself almost damaged his, and someone else’s, life.

Nahum, 15, from Athlone was born into a happy family. He is the middle child of two brothers (12 and 18) and has been raised by both parents. “My mom is a receptionist and my dad is an informal trader. He buys fruit from the farms and sells it in the city. My parents have always been caring and supportive of me.”

When Nahum was in Grade Seven, his school registered him to be part of the Arison Maths Competition. “I was in the top three in my school and I was offered a half bursary to study the following year at STAR International school. The annual fees were R21,000 and my family had to pay half of it.”

“I loved the school and there were teachers from different countries. I had subjects like computer application technology, and every month we had a sleep-over at the school house where we had extra studies and fun.”

Unfortunately, the bursary was only for one year and Nahum’s family was unable to pay the full fees the following year, so he moved to a public school.

“My new school was good and people were friendly. I just needed to adapt to learning in a bigger class. In my previous school we had only 18 learners in a class and now there were 40. The learners were also noisier during class, so I had to get used to paying extra attention in order to hear the teachers.”

One day, Nahum was walking back home from school with his friend Ryan when three men stopped them. “It took 15 to 20 minutes to walk from my school to home, so I always walked. I was talking to my friend Ryan and we were not too alert about what was going on around us. We climbed Athlone bridge and when we were almost at the top two guys stopped us, I could see the third one further down, watchful of the street. They were in their late teens or early twenties and they seemed dodgy. The street was empty and there were no people or cars. When they asked, ‘does anyone know the time?’ my friend and I knew that this was the typical question when they are planning to rob you, so we both answered no. Next, the guy closest to me said we were lying and he took a knife out of his pocket.”

“I froze, feeling every muscle in my body becoming paralysed with fear. He searched me all over and took my phone out of my pocket. Then they left. I remember being quite for a while, even after they left. My friend Ryan tried to comfort me and I just walked home.”

“My eldest brother was at home so I told him what had happened. When he asked me how they looked, I had completely forgotten, I could only remember his eyes. They were different. I felt he was enjoying it. He was a predator and I was his prey. I felt fearful and weak looking at his eyes.”

When Nahum’s father arrived home and heard what had happened, he became upset. “My father kept asking me questions that I was unable to answer. He told me to get into the car and we drove around the area hoping that I could identify them. I think he became more angry and frustrated with me than with the robbers. I felt useless.”

For the next two months, Nahum had flashbacks of what had happened. “I played and re-played the scene thousands of times in my head. Sometimes I would think of why I couldn’t stop the attack. I had seen hero movies so many times, I must know by now what to do. On other occasions I would think of why I did not drop my bags and run. The post-stress affected my sleep and I had difficulties falling asleep for a long time.”

“I kept feeling like an idiot and a coward – a disappointment to everyone around me. I was sure that if it happened to me again I would probably have behaved the same. I felt as though the robbers had not just taken my phone away, but they had taken my dignity and self-esteem.”

“I became scared, especially of the bridge. My family tried to get some family friends to wait for me after school and walk home with me. Even though their intention was good, I kept remembering that I was not alone when I was robbed and that they could do it again, even when I was walking with these people.”

Eventually Nahum decided to let go and move on with his life. Life got back to normal, but the psychological scars were imprinted on his mind.

One Saturday when Nahum was 14, he met an old primary school friend playing with a knife on the street. “The knife was cool – it was black and mysterious. I asked him where he bought it and he said he got it at the Chinese shop. I decided to get one of my own; it would be cool and I would be able to protect myself.”

“I chose a stainless steel one with black marks – the right size to fit in my pocket. It was beautiful, and I took the knife with me wherever I went. It became like an extra limb on my body.”

A few weeks passed and Nahum found himself on a late Saturday afternoon in the skate park. “I had spent the afternoon skating and chilling with friends and I was having a good time. But then, I fell down and hurt my thigh, so I decided to walk around the park to see if the pain would go away. I walked for a while, coming to a place that was very quiet, where I sat down on a bench and stared at some trees. Next, a guy approached me and asked if I had two Rand for him. I told him that I didn’t. He then took a knife out and told me that he was going to search me and if he found something he would hurt me.”

“I remember thinking that he was probably a few years older than me and taller, but my knife was bigger. I had the knife up my sleeve because it was uncomfortable to skate with it in my trouser pocket. He searched my trousers and found my cellphone. He took it out and told me that I was lucky that he did not feel like stabbing anyone today.”

“I knew I could recover my confidence if I did something. As he walked away I ran after him and jumped on his back. I put my arms around his neck and pressed with all my strength. I suffocated him and he fell onto his side.”

“Coming to my senses, I became scared that I had possibly killed someone. I just ran home, leaving my phone behind.”

“When I got home, I felt nauseous and had a terrible headache. I was unable to sleep at night for the next few weeks. I was on school holiday and I stayed inside all the time. I kept on having flashbacks of what had happened to him, and about how he looked on the floor. Had I killed him or not? I couldn’t live with the remorse.”

“I have always had the dream of helping people when I grow up – I want to become a doctor. I have always avoided any type of conflict and I believe it is pointless to fight as it only hurts people. I couldn’t believe what I had just done. I had hurt a fellow human being, and that made me a terrible person.”

“After that I threw the knife away into a drain on the street and I prayed for forgiveness. I believe murder is one of the most terrible sins someone can commit. I have now become more alert when I walk on the street, and have tried to avoid finding myself in isolated places. I also decided to join the gym and spend my energy taking care of my body. I decided not to fight back if it happens to me again, but to finally be brave enough to run.”

When asked what lesson he would like to share, Nahum tells us, “Knives and guns negatively impact your life. They give you a false sense of being strong, but they convert you into something that you will regret later. They cannot be the solution for the unsafe communities we live in. Hate cannot be resolved with more hate. We need to find healthier ways to do it… and until then, be brave enough to run.”

Nahum is a Leaders’ Quest participant

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