Durban -“Hand yourself in please my boy, and stand up for yourself against these allegations,” was the impassioned plea from Michael Padayachee’s mother Rose on Saturday.
Padayachee has been on the run since he allegedly assaulted his girlfriend, Tina Mbili, 21, the mother of his 17-month-old daughter, last month, leaving her for dead in a Phoenix park.
He has managed to evade an elite police task team, and by late Saturday spokesman Colonel Jay Naicker said they “don’t have any clues, but are using a lot of manpower to track him down”.
Speaking to the Sunday Tribune from her modest single-storey home in Phoenix, a distraught Rose said her son was being wrongly painted as a violent man.
The mother of four implored her son to turn himself in, fearing for his safety.
“There are all these allegations about him. He should rather willingly go to the police than be violently arrested or killed in a shoot-out with the police,” said Rose.
Mbili, who was released from hospital this week, was kicked and punched repeatedly in the head, allegedly by Padayachee, last month while he was out on R5 000 bail on an intimidation charge brought against him by Mbili in June.
“There are so many allegations being made,” said Rose.
“Michael is not a violent person. He has a temper, but many people do. We have never seen this alleged violent side.”
She recalled Mbili coming to them as a youngster when she started dating her son almost five years ago.
“She had been staying here for three weeks (before the assault). It was not the first time she came to live with us, and each time I welcomed her. I love her and treated her like one of my own. I paid her Tech fees and bought her clothes.”
She said Mbili charged Padayachee with rape earlier this year, but the case was dropped owing to insufficient evidence.
“She accused him of many things but always came back to him. If he was so violent, why did she always get back together with him? And when she was staying here, they played house very happily.”
Rose was adamant they were not hiding him and were unaware of his whereabouts.
“We have tried phoning him but his phone is switched off.
“Police come past every day and sometimes turn our house upside down looking for him, but he is not here.”
Her husband George declined to comment, only showing off Padayachee’s NQF4 qualification as a fitter.
Padayachee’s neighbours said he had a “heart of gold”.
Close friend and neighbour, Mrs Govindasamy, 34, who refused to give her first name, said he was a good, intelligent person who loved his daughter.
“We are very close and have a bond that no one can explain. It is not right that his name is being tarnished like this,” Govindasamy said.
Another neighbour, Betty, 63, who refused to give her surname, said that Padayachee had grown up in front of her.
“He was very close to my five sons. He is always willing to help and has a real heart of gold.”
Neighbour Roshan Desai, 46, said Padayachee had changed his ways and “stopped with the nonsense of fighting”.
“All he wanted was to see his child, and Tina prevented that. He even had a thanksgiving service at the house because he was putting God and himself first. He made a concerted effort to change.”
But Mbili’s sister Ross Harichand painted a very different picture, describing him as a “maniac”, and said they would be living in fear for as long as he was on the run.
“He often told her [Tina], if he couldn’t have her no man would. Michael never slapped her, he punched and kicked her. He is a huge guy and if he hits you, it hurts.
“Tina is starting to remember bits and pieces of what happened – that as he was hitting and kicking her, he kept saying: ‘I am going to kill you’.
“He left her in the park thinking she was dead. She is slowly recovering.
“She can’t stand for long periods and has difficulty clutching objects and suffers from nightmares,” she said.
“No one in our family ever liked Michael. He was the classical abuser, isolating her from her family and friends. The only reason she went back [to him] was because she was so afraid of him. He intimidated her.”
Prem Balram of Reaction Unit SA said Padayachee had worked for him a few years ago, but was dismissed because of his temper.
He said while Padayachee followed instructions “like a robot, he was extremely violent and dangerous”.
“He was extremely aggressive towards suspects.
“He made tons of arrests for us and could take on two or three guys single-handedly. But if he is guilty, the law must take its course.”
Rose, her eyes brimming with tears, said the real loser was the couple’s child.
“I grew very close to both Tina and my granddaughter when they lived here.
“A child is a gift from God and I want to be a part of my grandchild’s life. I am prepared to look after the baby if they can’t. I love her.”
Naicker said Padayachee has been charged with attempted murder, adding that the Phoenix police were unaware of the interim protection order and that Padayachee was arrested for assault and crimen injuria before the assault, but had been released on bail.
Asked about the rape charge, Naicker said it would be unethical to comment.
Thora Mansfield, director of the Open Door Crisis Centre in Pinetown, said domestic abuse was rife, with one woman killed every six days.
Although abused women’s lives were in danger, she said many of them remained in abusive relationships.
“They need the support from family and the community when they do leave. And they need to know, no matter what happens, it is never their fault,” Mansfield said.