US student’s hijack hell in CapeComment on this story
Cape Town - Standing in the dark, with nothing but swampy fields around me, I thought they would just shoot me there, leave me in the rain to die – and then have their way with my friend.
It had started as another night out, drinking with a group of friends at Stones in Observatory. But at around 1am on Wednesday, my friend Liz and I had peeled away from the crowd to grab her jersey from the back of another friend’s car.
I stood to one side as she rummaged in the backseat. It was then that our attackers – a group of four men clothed in thick hoodies and wearing hats to hide their faces – approached.
When one of them walked up to me, I thought he was going to mug me, but he just started shoving me into the car.
I could hear my friend screaming for help and my adrenalin kicked in as I started fighting back, exchanging blows with my attacker and trying to push him back. But they grouped together, overpowered me and forced me into the car, and then bundled in as well – three of them on the front seats and another with us at the back.
This was the start of a long and traumatic drive as they threatened us and picked us clean of anything valuable, grabbing my laptop and my phone.
They were shouting at us in Afrikaans, but I didn’t understand any of it. It was only afterwards that I discovered they were planning to kill me and rape my friend.
As neon lights of the city flashed by our windows and steadily began to thin out I tried to reason with the guy with us on the backseat.
When he took my watch, I cracked a joke, trying to lighten the mood. I was scared, but I was putting on a brave face because my friend was crying and panicking.
After about 30 minutes we suddenly stopped in this dark swampland. We had no idea where we were, it felt like the middle of nowhere but it was actually a road in Philippi.
They all got out of the car, and for a moment we thought they were going to leave us there and let us drive back home. But before even a bit of relief could set in, they all bundled back into the car and told us to get out.
It was then that they pointed me to the field and told me to walk. And that’s what I did, I thought that was it, that they were going to shoot me in the back of the head. Liz was standing near the car at the time.
But then I heard a revving motor and seconds later they were speeding off into the darkness, leaving us behind standing in a field in the rain. We didn’t know where we were. We had survived, but this swampy place felt like some sort of alien wasteland. All that was left to do was walk and look for help.
After what felt like an eternity, we finally found someone at a farm stall to help us. He called for us to be picked up by a friend. The friend whose car was stolen has laid a charge with police.
In the aftermath, I’m rattled but glad to be alive.
* Kenneth Klemens, 20, from New York, is an intern photographer at the Cape Argus and came to South Africa as part of a joint programme facilitated by the University of Connecticut and UCT.