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A four-day rescue mission ended with an engagement on Saturday when a missing Cape Town man proposed, on one knee, and his sobbing girlfriend accepted.
Brendan Rietveld went missing in the Franschhoek mountains on Wednesday while on what he called a spiritual retreat, but was found safe and alive in the Wemmershoek Valley on Saturday afternoon.
Moments after being reunited with his anxious family and friends, he proposed to his Mozambican girlfriend Jade August in an emotional scene in front of the entire rescue team.
He handed August a white pebble as a symbol, with a promise to get her the real stone as soon as he was able to.
Rietveld’s relieved parents, Peter and Berenice Rietveld, from Bloubergstrand, were overjoyed as their son was airlifted to the operations centre from where the search and rescue attempt was organised.
“We are just so happy he is safe,” they said.
Family and friends formed a circle and prayed.
Berenice Rietveld thanked the police and the rescue team.
“We have tears in our eyes, but now they are tears of joy,” she said.
Rietveld’s father Peter said he was relieved that his son was found unharmed.
“He knows how irresponsible it was to go alone up into the mountains,” he said.
Rietveld said he had gone on a walk “of faith” to face “all the fears in my life”.
“Obviously I am madly in love with a Mozambican woman who’s a couple of years older than me. And I couldn’t be happier. Obviously this is not a textbook marriage, we are of different colour skin and that clash on people’s boundaries poses challenges,” he said.
He had not eaten in two days.
Local resident Lulama Sijovu, the last person to encounter Rietveld before his disappearance, burst into tears when he saw the young man was safe.
Sijovu, from a nearby informal settlement, still had the Bible Rietveld gave him on Wednesday when they met.
CapeNature’s Deon Rossouw said Rietveld had been spotted opn Saturday on a ledge 3-4km from their operations base.
“This was not a random find. It was a properly planned search operation and people were deployed accordingly.”