Near-dead man saved from tavern

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Durban - A man who had been held in a Ladysmith tavern for a week was rescued on Wednesday after being held captive - handcuffed and shackled - allegedly by the establishment’s owners.

A source said that man said he had been accused of stealing from the tavern. Police said he had been kidnapped and brought to the tavern.

Siphamandla Sithole, 22, was found semi-naked with a deep laceration to his head, severe swelling to his hands and feet and other injuries. He was also suffering from starvation, severe dehydration and hypothermia.

The tavern owner, his wife and an employee were arrested on a charge of “manstealing”.

The man’s family are angry that police did not do more to find him, saying local police had gone to the tavern every day since he disappeared, but allegedly simply left after being told Sithole was not there.

Police confirmed on Wednesday that Sithole had been kept in a back room of Mbuyisa tavern in C-Section of eZakheni township against his will.

“They went out to the tavern and on searching the premises they discovered the man. He was handcuffed and his legs were tied together. He had also been assaulted,” said police spokesman, Captain Thulani Zwane.

He said two people were allegedly trying to break into the tavern at about 2am on July 3.

“The two were interrupted when the owner arrived. They allegedly ran off. Later on the same day of the break-in he was kidnapped and taken back to the tavern.”

Zwane said an ambulance had been immediately summoned and the man was rushed to hospital.

A relative of Sithole’s, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “We were devastated when we found him.”

She was still confused about how badly he had been treated.

Sithole’s family had gone to the eZakheni police station several times from Thursday last week to try and get assistance.

The police, she said, kept asking her if she was sure that he was at the tavern.

She said they had repeatedly gone to the area and asked about Sithole’s whereabouts.

“The community members kept on telling me that the last place they saw him was the tavern,” she said.

Police then asked her to bring a picture of Sithole.

“We refused as he is well-known in the area. We went to the area every day from Thursday to Monday with the police. Each time the police would ask for the owner of the tavern and when they said he was not there they would leave without searching the premises.”

She said that after not getting help from the eZakheni police station, another relative went to the police station in Ladysmith for assistance.

When they returned with the police from Ladysmith in tow, they entered the tavern and demanded the release of Sithole. She said a female worker at the tavern gave them the keys to the room that he was locked in.

They found him handcuffed in a toilet with bruises all over his body.

The relative said Sithole was very distraught.

The tavern owner, his wife and a female employee - they are all between the ages of 30 and 50 - had been arrested, Zwane said.

“They face charges of manstealing and are due to appear in the Ezakheni Magistrate’s Court soon.”

A paramedic who treated Sithole said that he had suffered many injuries.

“The patient had a deep laceration to his head, and severe swelling to hands and feet as blood circulation was compromised because of the handcuffs, which were tightly fixed around his wrists and ankles,” said the paramedic who asked not to be named as he is not authorised to speak to the media.

He added that the man also had many shallow cuts, which had become septic.

“(He also had to be treated for) severe dehydration and hypothermia as he was semi-naked.”

The paramedic said that when they commenced treatment, the swelling around his wrists had been so bad that a pulse could not be felt.

“Once police managed to free him from the cuffs, the blood circulation almost immediately started showing signs of improvement. We then rushed him off to the Ladysmith Provincial Hospital where doctors immediately initiated treatment.

“They will do whatever they can for him and there is a good chance of saving his fingers.”

The paramedic added that the man said he had been starved, and he smelled strongly of urine.

“He was very disorientated and didn’t understand why he was being held captive. He kept saying that he is innocent and is being wrongfully accused.”

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