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Reference : V-P-ZA-E-00060
Date : 18/04/2013
Caption : Soweto. Thanks to the ICRC and the American Red Cross, Efodia is reunited with her two sisters after a 50-year separation.
Photographer : EDELSTEIN, Ian
Confidentiality level : public
Publication restrictions : publication without restrictions
Copyright : ICRC
Description : Africa/USA: ICRC and American Red Cross reunite sisters after 50-year separation

10-06-2013 Feature

Efodia has been reunited with her family in South Africa after an absence of half a century, thanks to joint action by the American Red Cross and the ICRC, whose regional delegation in Pretoria sent this report.
Separated from her family in 1962, the year Nelson Mandela was jailed, anti-Apartheid militant Efodia Mokane spent 30 years in exile, some in a camp in Tanzania, some in Europe. She immigrated to the USA in 1994, re-married and became a US citizen. But after her husband died and she fell on hard times, Efodia decided she wanted to return home, to the new South Africa.

The problem was - how, after all this time, could she locate her two sisters who had remained behind?

Efodia approached the Pikes Peak chapter of the American Red Cross in 2012 and asked for help. A staff member helped her fill out a tracing request, which was sent to the ICRC regional delegation in Pretoria.

There, Tracing Assistant Henrietta Letlape took charge of the case, which was to prove complicated and arduous. [After several unfruitful researches] [...] [someone] "put [them] in contact with Bapsy's sister-in-law and that's how [they] finally found her."

A letter, called a "Red Cross message", from Efodia was duly handed over and Bapsy replied, using a Red Cross Message form, that she was willing to welcome her sister home. Until then, they had had no contact at all for 18 years. From then on the ICRC and American Red Cross helped the sisters to communicate by phone and in writing.

Meanwhile, proof had to be obtained of Efodia's South African origins - she had no documents to uphold her claim. Henrietta Letlape collected testimonies from PAC members who had been together with Efodia in exile, to confirm that she was South African. This enabled Efodia to obtain a travel visa.

Red Cross message
Funding for Efodia's return trip to South Africa was provided by the Colorado state social services and the hostel where she had been living. And on 18 April 2013, just a week before South Africa marked its 19th year of democracy, Efodia returned home for the first time since 1962.


"We will never forget the Red Cross"
Sister Bapsy said: "I never thought such a day would come. We didn't sleep for the past three days, awaiting my sister's arrival. I was 11 when she left South Africa. If I were to die now, I could rest in peace because my sister has returned home. Thank you, Red Cross. We will never forget you."
Original material : digital
Resolution : 2142x2823
Orientation : portrait
Colour/B&W : colour