Durban — The mother of a boy who was kidnapped and held for ransom, allegedly on the orders of a neighbour, described life after the ordeal as having their freedom and right to live taken away.
“We are living in fear. I don’t sleep, worried that someone will come especially with the start of the trial delayed. As long as my child and I have not testified I consider our lives in danger knowing that there’s a fifth man out there who was involved that was not arrested. We live in constant paranoia that we are being followed. We used to vacation at least four times a year but now we don’t due to fear,” the mother told the Sunday Tribune on Friday.
The trial into her son’s kidnapping had been set down to be heard over three days in the Ntuzuma Magistrate’s Court, however, because the legal representative of two of the four accused was not in court on two occasions the trial has not begun. The boy was 11 years old in 2022 when he was kidnapped. His mother paid R90 000 ransom to his alleged kidnappers, who include a neighbour who is alleged to be the mastermind behind the crime.
Lindokuhle Mthokozisi Thabede, 29, Mvelo Khuzwayo, 29, Fisokuhle Mathews Mbatha, 32, and the 40-year-old neighbour of the child are alleged to have kidnapped the boy at gunpoint, kept him at a house and demanded R1 million ransom from the child’s mother. The child’s neighbour cannot be named to protect the identity of the minor child.
The four men are charged with kidnapping of a minor, kidnapping and extortion. It is alleged on May 18, 2022, in Umzinyathi in Inanda, the men kidnapped the child just a stone's throw away from his home as he was being driven to school that morning. They also allegedly kidnapped the child’s driver and forced him into the boot of a car at gunpoint.
It is alleged that on that day the accused contacted the child’s mother demanding ransom of R1 million failing which the child would be killed.
After the child was kidnapped the child’s mother contacted the police and the ransom was given to the accused under surveillance by the police. The child was kept in a house from the morning of that day until being rescued by police after one of the accused volunteered information about the child’s location. The police captured the man after intercepting the vehicle the accused had been travelling in. The ransom money was recovered in the home of one of the accused. The neighbour was the last to be arrested after being linked by cellphone evidence.
Thabede, Khuzwayo and Mbatha remain in custody as they were denied bail. The neighbour is out on bail.
The court ordered that the neighbour and Mbatha find alternative legal representation after dismissing their current counsel.
“My son is starting high school and he just wants to get his testimony over with. He is not the same after the trauma he suffered. He had to change schools and we had to move to another area. I have suffered emotionally and financially as a result of this case, I had built my family a big beautiful house but we had to leave it and I had to make plans to find us another home,” said the child’s mother.
She said the neighbour had been close to the family and she was disappointed that he was among those accused of the crime.
“I trusted him, even after the kidnapping I confided in him and he was consoling me. After the floods in that year, his home was destroyed and his family lived in my house while it was restored. He was unemployed and I encouraged him to start a little business, he was cutting people’s hair and my son was his customer. My son often asks and wonders, saying that all the while he was cutting his hair he was thinking the worst for him.”