Johannesburg - Nazeer Mohammed’s bedroom in his parents' house stands untouched in the hope that one day he’ll return to sleep in his own bed again, after he disappeared more than three years ago in a suspected kidnapping.
“His clothes are all in the cupboard, everything is the way it was,” his tearful sister Zaheera told The Star.
Nazeer went missing on December 7, 2012 from his car dealership in Jules Street, Jeppestown, after he climbed into a black Nissan Navara with three unidentified men.
Two cars and Nazeer’s cell- phone were later also stolen from the NZR Motor City dealership.
On Monday, brothers-in-law Rotshidza Netshiavha and Robert Nemabhaka, who were convicted of the theft on November 23 last year, had their sentencing proceedings postponed to February 22.
Nemabhaka was known to Nazeer. He worked for a mechanic who, in the month before Nazeer’s disappearance, had done repairs on one of Nazeer’s cars.
Soon afterwards, Nemabhaka allegedly asked Nazeer for a job, which he refused on the basis that it would spoil his relationship with the mechanic.
In the State’s heads of argument, prosecutor Welcome Madela, pointed out that Nemabhaka had taken advantage of the relationship of trust he had with Nazeer.
“Mr Robert Nemabhaka qualifies to be a thief because he was in a position of trust and he therefore stole at the earliest opportunity. It is my respectful submission that Mr Nemabhaka carefully protracted this theft,” Madela told the court.
“Accused number 4 having had knowledge that Mr Nazeer Mohammed is absent from his management post, sought help of accused number 5 with stealing the two cars, I have no doubt in my mind that they knew what happened to Mr Nazeer Mohammed because they drew courage to steal after realising that an opportunity for Mr Mohammed to resurface shortly were remote.”
Initially five people were arrested and two dockets were being investigated, one of theft and another of kidnapping.
Two days after Nazeer’s disappearance, his mother, Shaida Bi Seepye, received a phone call demanding a ransom of R150 000.
The call was traced to a public pay phone at the Noord Street taxi rank.
On January 2 and 19, 2013 Seepye received two more phone calls where she allegedly heard her son’s voice in the background.
The calls were traced to Nkosinathi Mazibuko and Sandile Junior Arthur Mkhize, who were later arrested and charged with kidnapping.
However, despite these details, the kidnapping charges were withdrawn, allegedly due to lack of evidence.
A letter written by Mazibuko and Mkhize’s lawyer to the prosecutor on April 29, 2013 stated: “There is no indication that the disappearance of Mr Mohammed was against his will, nor in fact that an offence was indeed committed.
“Mr Mohammed is still missing and no evidence exists in the docket that would indicate there was any foul play in the disappearance of Mr Mohammed. There is no evidence to suggest that our clients were in any way involved in the disappearance of Mr Mohammed in December 2012.”
The lawyer also claimed there was no link between his clients and the other accused, despite the investigation into the kidnapping being incomplete.
IRS Investigations have recently agreed to help Nazeer’s family on a pro bono basis to get the kidnapping charges reinstated in a bid to gain closure for the family.
“We’re trying to find out exactly what happened and trying to keep the police’s interest in the case,” said investigator Chad Thomas.
“We have new leads that we’re following up. Anything that comes in via our hotline we would automatically share with the police.”
He added their priority was to get closure for the family. Zaheera echoed this wish.
“We would really like to know what happened to him. This case of theft, I mean it proves that the suspects caught are involved in it. We really want to know what they did, what happened, who’s involved. Let us know. All we want is closure,” she said.
Her brother’s disappearance had taken its toll on the whole family.
“It has really affected all of our health. Both my parents have heart conditions. Since his disappearance, everything has become a lot worse. It’s just like living in so much anxiety the past few years.”
Zaheera said: “Not a day goes by that we don’t recall a holiday that we’ve had, family jokes, time spent with family.”
Since Nazeer’s disappearance, Zaheera has got married, and four months ago she gave birth to a son.
“It has been very tough. I got married, he wasn’t there. I had a baby, he’s not here. And we always think about him and how he would be with the baby, or on my wedding day, how happy he would be, all those memories and moments we wish he was in. I think what a great uncle he would’ve been to this child now,” she said, her voice trembling.
She desperately misses her older brother. Nazeer was known for his kind-heartedness and his close relationship with his family. February 20 would have been his 29th birthday. “It’s a very sad day, we spend the day together as a family. We pray a lot that we will get closure, and that the people involved step forward and say what they’ve done.”
Anyone with any information can call IRS Investigations' hotline on 0861 911 477.
A timeline of events relating to Nazeer Mohammed’s disappearance as provided by his family:
November 15, 2012: Nazeer gave his vehicle to mechanic Isaac Mashamba to repair. Mashamba told Nazeer that the problem was with the engine and that he had stripped it and taken out the parts that needed to be replaced.
November 27, 2012: Mashamba’s employee, Robert Nemabhaka, approached Nazeer and told him that his vehicle had actually had a problem with the sensor and not the engine. He claimed Mashamba had used the parts from Nazeer’s car as parts on other cars. He said he had stopped working for Mashamba and asked Nazeer for a job, which Nazeer refused. Nazeer and Nemabhaka opened a case of theft against Mashamba at Jeppe police station.
November 30, 2012: Mashamba was arrested for theft and released on December 3.
December 5, 2012: A taxi driver stopped at Nazeer’s dealership and threatened him. The driver allegedly said: “If you got a problem with Isaac, you got a problem with me.” It later emerged during court proceedings that Nemabhaka's co-accused, Rotshidza Netshiavha, was a taxi driver.
December 6, 2012: Police records show that Nazeer’s cellphone records indicate that he called Mashamba on this day and spoke to him for an hour.
December 7, 2012: Nazeer’s employee Simon Sithole called in sick. Police investigations later revealed he had gone for a job interview and not to the clinic. Nazeer’s mother Shaida Bi Seepye spoke to him on his phone around 9am. Around 11am, Nazeer was allegedly abducted by three men in a black Nissan Navara. Around 2pm, Sithole, who had returned to the property, told a customer that Nazeer had gone on holiday and would not be returning. (Sithole was one of the men arrested for Nazeer’s kidnapping. Charges were then withdrawn.) At 6pm, the security company phoned Nazeer’s father Abdul Seepye to say Nazeer was not at the dealership and they wanted to go home. His parents found the dealership’s doors open and deserted.
December 9, 2012: Shaida received a call demanding a R150 000 ransom for Nazeer. The call was traced to a public phone at the Noord Street taxi rank.
January 2, 2013: Shaida received two calls late at night, during which she could hear Nazeer’s voice in the background.
January 10, 2013: Nazeer’s cellphone and Opel Astra are found in Netshidza’s possession and the other stolen car, a Toyota Corolla was found in Nemabhaka’s possession, both in Limpopo. The pair gave the police conflicting statements on how they came to be in possession of Nazeer’s vehicles.
January 19, 2013: Shaida receives another call around midday. The calls were traced to Nkosinathi Mazibuko and Sandile Junior Arthur Mkhize.
January 21, 2013: Mazibuko and Mkhize are arrested and charged with kidnapping. They had Nazeer’s parents' cellphone numbers saved on their cellphones.
July 4, 2013: Kidnapping charges against Mazibuko, Mkhize and Sithole were dropped, allegedly due to lack of evidence.
November 23, 2015: Netshiavha and Nemabhaka are convicted of theft.
January 11, 2016: Sentencing proceedings for Netshiavha and Nemabhaka are postponed to February 22.