For 21 days, the mood in the Moti family home in Nirvana, Polokwane was gloomy and depressing, but that ended when they received news from police, after 10pm on Wednesday, that their four kidnapped sons were found.
Keshia Patchiappen, the Moti family spokesperson, said when Naazim Moti received the call that his sons were found, it punctured the despair that gripped them for three weeks.
They wanted to first see for themselves that all was well with Zia,15, Zayyad, 11, Alaan, 13, and seven-year-old Zidan to be completely satisfied that their nightmare was over, said Patchiappen.
“Everyone close to the boys understands it will be a long road to recovery,” she said.
With exam-season in full-swing, their respective schooling commitments have not yet been discussed.
The family is focused on the youngsters' overall healing.
They’ve also decided that the birthday celebration for Zidan, who turned 7 last weekend, must be put on hold, until the time is right to acknowledge the landmark, said Patchiappen.
On October 20, the boys were being driven to their Curro Heuwelkruin School when a group of heavily armed gunmen ambushed their vehicle.
All four boys were abducted, but were dropped off on a road in the Ha-Masia Village,Vuwani, Limpopo, three weeks later.
The boys knocked on the door of a Vuwani home, the couple living there alerted police.
Patchiappen said the trauma of their ordeal still plays on the tender minds of the boys, but now they are in familiar surroundings and appreciate the comfort and caring, including their favourite meals, of their loved ones.
Streams of messages from well-wishers are still being showered on the family, she confirmed.
“Naazim and Shakira are so grateful for the constant support of the community and the rest of the country. Whilst we appreciate everybody’s concern, the family realises they must be responsible with the information disclosed and comply with the ongoing investigation to ensure that this never happens to other families.”
A source close to the family, who asked not to be named, said they were still rattled by the trauma the boys’ disappearance brought on them.
“They are exhausted, and each family member is processing the ordeal in their own way, but also caring for each other.
“The happy ending has been a huge relief for them,” said the source.
A Nirvana community member said she looked forward to seeing the family return to being active in their neighbourhood once again.
“We miss seeing them around town or the boys out on their bicycles. But as a community we need to pull together and make the family’s recovery as easy and stress-free as possible. We need to give them the time and space for healing,”
With the kidnapping investigations still ongoing, police have not divulged a motive for the abductions, were adamant that no ransom was paid, and the circumstances around which the boys were released remains unclear at this stage.
However, that has not stemmed the flow of speculation on social media platforms about the boy's dramatic disappearance and safe return.
A multi-disciplinary team comprising crime intelligence, forensic experts, hostage negotiators, seasoned detectives from the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks), and high-ranking police officials were involved in the investigations.
Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo, national police spokesperson, said the fact that minimal information was in the public domain was not indicative of a lack of intelligence gathered by the authorities.
"This is a very sensitive investigation and we've never spoken about this kidnapping case publicly, but we have assembled a high-level team, who have been working relentlessly towards the boy's safe return and the apprehension of the kidnappers,” said Naidoo.
Additional Reporting: Nathan Craig