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As the head of Gift of Givers, an organisation that goes into war zones to provide food and medicine to people, Dr Imtiaz Sooliman has been in a few hairy situations in his lifetime.
And it was this very experience and “God’s grace” that helped him and his wife get through a terrifying hijacking outside his home in Pietermaritzburg on Thursday night, he said.
“I have been in war zones before. I have had bombs drop around me and have been shot at, but this time it was different as my wife was with me. Throughout the ordeal, all I kept thinking was to keep calm and try to get through this,” he said.
Sooliman said the incident happened soon after 6pm as he drove home from the airport.
He was returning from an overseas trip and was in his sister-in-law’s BMW that his wife had borrowed to pick him up from the airport.
“This guy got out of a black Corolla and approached the car. I thought it was someone looking for directions and it only clicked that I was in a hijacking when I saw the silver barrel of the gun,” Sooliman said.
“Because my wife was in the car, I decided to get out and talk to the guy but my phone rang and the hijacker became irritated. I kept calm talking to him. He wanted money. So I dug in my pockets – I had a few hundred rand to give to him,” he said.
While Sooliman negotiated with the armed man, he said his wife noticed there were other men waiting in the car.
He said the armed hijacker seemed extremely agitated and threatened to shoot him repeatedly.
“He held the gun to my head. At one time he said I was lying and told me ‘I should shoot you right now’. Even then I kept calm,” Sooliman said.
The hijacker, after telling Sooliman that “this was taking too long”, eventually settled for the cash in Sooliman’s pockets as well as four cellphones and the car he was driving.
The hijacker pulled his wife out of the car and let her go.
“It was the first time I have been in a hijacking and, like those times in the war zones, it was because of God’s grace I got out,” he said.