Two Gauteng minibus taxis deep in Mozambique proved to be guardian angels for a Hillcrest family fleeing robbers who shot at them using automatic weapons.
“I now see taxis in a different light,” Tanya Hayward said on Friday, still in the neighbouring country after a gang descended on the lodge in which her family was staying this week.
“The taxi drivers were the most amazing guardian angels… I keep having goosebumps.”
Her husband, Dean, had ordered his wife and their daughter, Jessamine, 11, into their 4x4 when he realised that the Casa Lisa Resort, about 50km north of Maputo, was under attack shortly before 2am on Tuesday. They then drove the same distance to a main road with one of their vehicle’s tyres down to its rim.
“I stood in the road and waved,” said Tanya.
“Five or six cars drove past. Then these two taxis were fantastic. I begged them – don’t leave us – and they helped us change our tyre.”
The good samaritans then escorted the Haywards, one in front and one behind, to a police station.
Once the family had moved on to another resort, at Ponto do Ouro near the KwaZulu-Natal border, one of the taxi drivers, on his return trip, saw that their vehicle was no longer at the police station.
“He phoned to ask, ‘Are you safe?’ “
Tanya said her family would not have gone to Casa Lisa had heavy traffic not caused them to take two-and-a-half hours to make it through Maputo on Monday.
They were bound for Zavora, 420km north of the capital, but had decided “let’s not kill ourselves” with a long journey and stopped off at Casa Lisa, had a nice afternoon swim and a pleasant evening with other guests, then retired early, at 7pm.
“I woke during the night,” said Tanya.
“I heard noises and saw figures outside the window. I ignored it, thinking it might be the security guards.
“Then I heard a scuffle and a screaming and someone begging for their lives. I just knew it was a fear scream.”
Dean added: “It was quarter-to-two in the morning. I got up and I heard someone shout – minha familia (“my family”, in Portuguese) – and I realised we were under attack. I said to my family – get into the car – I told them to keep their heads down.”
Tanya said she draped a blanket over herself and her daughter.
“As we drove off, I could see guys with torches in their hands. I could see how they were running, through the side of my eye.
“Seconds later they started shooting at us.
“Jessamine and I lay down. Dean had to get us out of there.”
He, meanwhile, realised they were under fire from automatic rifles. “I just floored that double cab of mine,” he recalled.
While the Haywards got away, other guests at Casa Lisa were tied up, they learnt.
A woman was raped and later taken to Mbombela (formerly Nelspruit).
Mediclinic Nelspruit spokeswoman Berdine Malan confirmed that a woman who had been raped in Mozambique was treated at the hospital on Christmas Eve and discharged on the same day.
The Haywards returned to Casa Lisa after their ordeal to find that their boat and trailer, which had dislodged from their 4x4 during their escape, had been ransacked “down to beach footwear” .
“Once we sped off, it seemed that we disturbed the gang,” said Dean. “Other guests cut themselves free and ran into the bush.”
No police officers had come to the scene because they lacked transport, he heard.
Bruce Buckland, the owner of Casa Lisa, said he had no comment on the robbery.
Determined not to make the incident ruin the remainder of their holiday, the Haywards chose to remain on the Mozambique coast but close to the border, but it has not been easy for them.
“I have flashbacks to the screaming. When I think about it, I just want to be sick,” said Tanya.
“I feel as if hot ice is going through my body, from the tips of my fingertips to my toes.
“I have lived all my life in Durban and never had anything like this happen in South Africa.”
Dean, who is in shipping and has been a frequent visitor to Mozambique and other African countries – the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Zimbabwe – said this was his first such nasty incident but was something that could happen in many countries.
For some months there have been reports of a gang, known as G20, terrorising parts of southern Mozambique, causing Maputo residents to use vigilante patrols to protect themselves.
“We had read about this but decided let’s not cancel after friends who went ahead of us and came back after two weeks, were fine,” said Tanya.