Pule Segale


Losing one parent is difficult but losing both is a tragedy. This was what happened to Pule Segale and his twin sister. Through grief they became closer than ever and supported each other to succeed. Grief, love and sacrifice; this story shows what strength of character can do.

Pule Segale is a 28 year old civil engineer living in Cape Town. ‘When I was Grade 2 my mother married and we all moved in together. My twin sister and I were not close, we did not get along and we used to fight all the time. Despite this we were happy and both did well in school.’ Then Pule and his sister’s world fell apart, ‘we were 12 and my uncle came to see us at school which was unusual. He took us to our family home in Soweto, sat us down on a bed and told us what had happened in the school where our mother was working. Early that morning, someone entered the school and started shooting, three teachers died instantly and one of them was our mother,’ says Pule. ‘I felt an intense sense of despair. My first instinct was to run away, I wanted to kill myself, in that moment I didn’t want to live without my mother, she was everything to me.’ Pule and his sister sat on the bed sobbing for a long time. Pule said ‘there was an instance where we turned at the same time and we saw each other’s pain. I knew then that she had become my reason for living.’

The circumstances after their mother’s death became challenging. There was often conflict between his mother’s family and his father. ‘My aunty called us and let us know that who we thought was our father was in reality our stepfather and no one knew who our biological father is because my mother kept his identity a secret.’ Despite wanting to remain with their maternal family, the stepfather insisted that they stayed with him. ‘We were not asked what we wanted and once again we were separated from our family. We had very little contact with them.’

Pule and his sister became inseparable and each other’s rock. ‘We grew up in a culture that told us not to speak out about our feelings but the burden we carried of our mother’s death was too much. My sister and I would often speak about how we felt. This is what kept me going, knowing that I had someone I trusted and loved to turn to when I was having a bad day.’ Despite their circumstances both were high achievers at school. ‘From a young age we were very goal orientated, a principle our mother instilled in us, and we never lost focus. By achieving high marks at school, I was honoring my mother’s memory and making her proud. I took on a deep sense of responsibility for myself and this ensured that I pushed and moved forward in my life.’

‘In our Matric year, we were both excited with the idea of furthering our education’. Unfortunately for Pule and his sister both were accepted but in different Universities. Pule went onto study at the University of Cape Town and his sister at Wits University in Johannesburg. This was another challenge for Pule, ‘being separated from my sister for the first time, was heart wrenching and for sometime the only way I could cope was to not have regular contact with her, I stopped phoning.’

‘In my 3rd year, my sister called to let me know that our stepfather had not paid for her tuition fees and she needed to stop University. With little hesitation, I took a leave of absence and went back to Johannesburg so that we could work it out together.’ During the next year, both Pule and his sister got jobs and worked hard to save some money. They also successfully applied for bursaries so that they could go back to University to continue their studies. After three years, Pule graduated with a BSc Civil Engineering and his sister graduated with a Bcom Accounting.

When we asked Pule what was his life motto he said: ‘we are all responsible for ourselves. Whatever happens to me is my responsibility. If you live your life in this way, you take the power from other people’s hands and you put the power back into yours.’

Pule is a former Salesian Life Choices tutor.

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