Johannesburg - Meisie Ramantsi was only fed scraps of food, made to drink urine-contaminated water and was almost raped by her heartless kidnappers.
But it was a lie that helped end her “15 days of hell”, held for ransom in Sudan four years ago.
She told them she was Nelson Mandela’s granddaughter.
The policewoman, born in the North West, was deployed as a UN peacekeeper stationed in Nyala, South Darfur, Sudan, in 2010.
On the afternoon of April 11 of that year, while she and three other fellow South African peacekeepers drove back to their base camp, the group were stopped by a foreign vehicle ferrying 18 heavily armed men between the ages of 21-23.
“I just knew we were being kidnapped,” she said.
They drove for six hours to a remote location. She and her chief commander were the only women, along with two male colleagues. All their valuables were taken.
Five minutes after they arrived at the first camp, Ramantsi said she knew they were aiming to rape her. “I speak a bit of Arab. Judging from their hand gestures and how they laughed and spoke about breasts I knew what they intended to do,” she said.
She told her colonel their captors would rape her.
Shortly afterwards a stern voice ordered her to get up. It was the group’s leader.
She looked down, pretending not to hear a word. He then instructed her to get up again – this time in English.
Ramantsi said the man led her to a car, held his AK-47 between his legs and began undressing her.
“I said ‘commander wait! You don’t want to do this’.
“I said I was Nelson Mandela’s daughter and that he would not be happy with this. He said I was lying because Mandela was black (dark skinned) and I am fair. He also thought I was white and from Britain.”
In her last desperate attempt, Ramantsi used her last trick – religion.
“I said ‘commander I don’t think Allah would appreciate what you are doing’.
He let me go and told me to leave,” she said. In the next few days the man apologised, promising not to hurt her.
And then the nightmare started. Ramantsi and her colleagues were moved from one camp to another with their UN uniform swopped for shoddy clothes.
They were not allowed to bath and were only fed wild game meat. The worst for Ramantsi was the false hope they received from their captors, who were demanding a ransom from their families.
“There were days when I just broke down and wanted to give up. But my kids and husband are what kept me going.”
“My colleagues and I would play mind games with the the kidnappers in a bid to stay sane and alive. We assessed their moods every morning, teaching them about South Africa and trying to convince them they didn’t have to do what they were doing,” she said.
Eventually the group was released on the 15th day.
Ramantsi knows all too well what Pierre Korkie, Stephan McGowan, and even the girls kidnapped by Nigerian militant Islamist group, Boko Haram, are experiencing. Korkie and his wife Yolande, from Bloemfontein, were abducted by a group affiliated to al-Qaeda in Yemen last year.
Yolande was released in January to try and raise the more than R30 million ransom for Korkie’s release. McGowan, from Joburg, was kidnapped in Mali in 2011.
“We ought to pray for them and pray for their families. I understand what they are going through.”
Ramantsi, who now gives motivational talks, said she would be writing a book about her experience.
I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy,” she said.