This article first appeared in the 1 July 2022 edition of the Cape Argus newspaper.
Cape Town - "We firstly give thanks to God Almighty for granting us the return of a beloved father, grandfather and a friend to many. We also thank every person out there who supported us through this ordeal and who has said a prayer for his safe return.”
These were the words of a son of city businessman Ismail Rajah, who spent his first day back at home on Thursday after being held by kidnappers for more than three months.
Four suspects were arrested on Wednesday during a midnight raid on a Khayelitsha house where police found the 69-year-old chained to a bed and, according to information, still wearing the same clothes he had on when he was kidnapped outside his Parow business on March 9.
The intelligence-driven raid took place at the time members of Rajah's family were in Dubai to transfer a R8.1 million ransom. The suspects, including two Mozambicans were to appear in court yesterday, but were expected in court on Friday.
"The pain and torment we have gone through as a family – this has undoubtedly been the most challenging and debilitating experience – something we don't wish anyone to go through.
“While the odds were stacked against us, God's will prevailed, Rajah's son Raziek Rajah said during an exclusive interview with the Cape Argus at their home on Thursday.
Rajah's other son Zaeed Rajah said: "After he was freed, we were excited but anxious to see him physically. When we first saw him get out of the car and put in the wheelchair, it felt like an immense weight was being lifted off our shoulders.
“It felt like the 110 days of trauma and stress just evaporated. We can't fully put it into words."
Raziek Rajah said their father had been for a medical check up after he was rescued and was just glad to be back home safely.
"He thanks everyone who played a role in bringing him back as well as all those who prayed for his safety," he said.
The Rajah brothers would not be drawn on details of what transpired before their father was freed as they would not want to jeopardise the investigation.
National police spokesperson Athlenda Mathe said the house in which Rajah was found was being treated as a crime scene.
“Investigations are continuing as to who the lawful owners of the house are,” Mathe said, adding that police also probed whether the suspects were linked to other kidnappings. At this stage only four suspects have been arrested, but the possibility of more arrests cannot be ruled out,” she said.
Muslim Judicial Council second deputy president Riad Fataar, who is a family friend of the Rajahs, said: “It is from the bottom of our hearts that we express that we are extremely grateful. I have been making dua in every salaah, every day since he disappeared.”
Since Rajah was kidnapped, the MJC had requested all Imams for a special prayer at Friday congregational prayers, for his safe return.
“He is a man who has shown support to our schools, masaajids, and helped us with gang violence. He sent money to build a wall where the bullets couldn't get through. When he needed Deeni (religious) advice, he would call,” and audibly emotional Fataar said.
Asked to comment, crime activist Hanif Loonat, who was well informed about Rajah’s kidnapping, said: “These kidnappings are headed by trans-international syndicates. Based in Dubai, Mozambique and South Africa.”
UCT Centre of Criminology senior researcher Dr Simon Howell said kidnappings were another income stream for organised crime networks.
He said that over the past six months a new trend emerged where those not part of crime syndicates, found that easy money could be through kidnappings, adding that the ransom depended on the status of the victim and how organised the kidnappers were.
This could range from millions of rands for business people and tens of thousands of rands or low profile cases such as children.
Some kidnappings that made the news included:
- Manenberg resident Shireen Essop disappeared on May 23 this year and was found three weeks later.
- Lenasia businessman, Luqman Kazi was kidnapped on March 15, 2022 and rescued by police two days later.
- Brothers, Zia, Zayyad, Alaan and Zidan Moti, aged 6 to 15, were kidnapped by gunmen on their way to school in Limpopo in October last year.
- Foodprop Group founder Liyaqat Parker was kidnapped by armed men at his business in Parow in July 2018 and held captive for more than two months. It was reported that a multimillion-rand ransom was paid.
- Sadeck Zhaun, 71, was kidnapped from his Salt River fabric business in July 2017 and freed two months later.