Pretoria - “God, thank you for protecting my father.” This is the short prayer that Mongezi Phike said moments after being reunited with his father after being separated a week ago during a hijacking in Bronkhorstspruit.
Family members on Monday gathered at Bernice Samuel Hospital, in Delmas, where Aaron Phike was being treated for injuries he sustained after being assaulted during the ordeal.
Mongezi, who went missing for six days after the hijackers drove away with him, was found unharmed at a children’s home in Joburg on Monday.
“I am glad that you are okay, Baba. I wanted to hit those men who did this to you,” Mongezi said, referring to the four hijackers who assaulted his father and drove away with the 6-year-old.
Moments before Mongezi and his relatives arrived at the hospital in Delmas, Aaron recalled the night of the ordeal. He said they were at an intersection and about to turn, when the attackers jumped into his car.
“It all happened very quickly. One moment I was preparing to turn, the next thing I had four youngsters in my car, two of them pointing guns at me,” he said.
Realising the seriousness of the situation, the 42-year-old said, he tried to stay calm to avoid bringing harm to Mongezi.
“They instructed me to park on the side and they started hitting me.” Tying his wrists and ankles with his shoelaces, they discussed killing him and his son.
“I begged them not to harm Mongezi. I think one of them knows one of my older sons, Comfort, because he mentioned his name, saying that he also recognised Mongezi.”
His left eye is bruised, his wrists and ankles are chafed, and he has plaster on his fractured left leg.
Aaron said his life was of secondary concern.
“I was praying and hoping that Mongezi was safe. How was I going to justify my being a father to God if my child was harmed in my presence?”
Aaron was discharged from hospital on Monday.
Earlier in the day, Mongezi spoke of the moment he was separated from his father. He described how, even though witnessing his father being attacked, he stayed calm.
Sitting next to his mother outside their home in Bronkhorstspruit, Mongezi said his father was hit with a gun on his back before his feet and hands were tied. He said he slept in the car for three nights with his abductors.
“They fed me bread, with chips and water. I told them I would not eat unless I saw my family,” he said.
While feeding her son porridge on Monday outside their home where relatives, neighbours and well-wishers had gathered to see Mongezi, his mother, Lizzie, said it was Mongezi's first meal since arriving home.
“People have been flocking here to see him.” she said.
Mongezi spoke about how his abductors eventually abandoned him. “They left me at a mall in Johannesburg. That’s when I went to the offices and told them what happened to me and my father and told a lady there where I lived.
“The lady in the office then called the police, who came and took me to the police station, then to a place where I was with other kids.”
Gauteng Premier David Makhura visited the boy’s home and said police would not rest until the men responsible for his disappearance were behind bars.
“The police are working tirelessly, following leads to try to catch the four suspects,” he said.
The deputy police provincial commissioner, General Tebello Mosikili, said no arrests had been made so far, but a task team had been deployed to investigate the kidnapping.