Kidnapped businessman tells of terror ordeal
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Durban - A banana and a bottle of water. That is all a businessman of Indian origin was given by kidnappers who held him for three days.
The 31-year-old man arrived in South Africa nine years ago from the State of Gujerat. He opened a cellphone repair shop in the Durban CBD. His family, including a three-month-old baby, live in India. His brother, who is a business partner, is the only family he has in South Africa.
Last Thursday evening, the man, who asked not to be identified, closed his shop and was going to his car when four men surrounded him in the parking lot.They claimed they wanted to borrow a wheel spanner. When he tried to fight them off, they stabbed him in his right shoulder. He was also hit on the head with the butt of a gun and then forced into a grey Mazda car.
He said his hands and feet were bound with shoelaces, and his head was covered with a blanket.
“I was scared, and I thought I was going to die. All I could think about were the faces of my baby girl and my mother who are in India.”
The businessman said he was driven around for a while, during which time he was searched. His cellphone, watch and wallet were taken.
"They stopped at one point and demanded my ATM pin. I know they withdrew an amount of cash.”
The businessman was taken to a residential area in the South of Durban. He did not know exactly where it was because his head was covered until he was inside a single room.
"They took me inside and beat me. They replaced the lace with cable ties and made me sit in a corner. I was told not to move. I was not given food except for a banana and a bottle of water each day. I did what I was told because I knew they would kill me if I did not listen.”
Inside the room was a bed and television. He was ordered to sleep on the concrete floor while two of the kidnap suspects who used the bed.
Meanwhile, his brother Mohammed (surname withheld) was in Zambia on business when he received a recorded voice message on Thursday night via WhatsApp.
"The voice note was from my brother. I could hear the panic in his voice. He said he was kidnapped, and his kidnappers wanted R450 000 for his release."
Mohammed made arrangements to fly back to Durban and asked a family friend to open a case with the police. He also engaged the services of a private security company.
Mohammed communicated with the kidnappers via two unknown cell numbers. Using WhatsApp, he told them he only had R350 000.
“I didn't even care about the money. All I wanted was my brother back safely."
Mohammed was asked to do the exchange on Saturday at the Mobeni Heights shopping centre.
Colonel Thembeka Mbele, a provincial police spokesperson, said: "The team was informed that the suspects were communicating with the victim's brother, demanding a ransom. The money was arranged, and the meeting point was given to the victim's brother on South Coast Road in Clairwood.
"An operation was conducted following the leads, but subsequently, the meeting point was changed to Wiggins Road in Mobeni. The team tactically proceeded to the meeting point, where the ransom was given to the suspect by the victim's brother.
"The suspects then drove away in an alleged Uber vehicle. The victim was dropped off, and a chase after the said vehicle ensued. The vehicle was stopped by the team at Wiggins Road and intercepted. Two occupants of the vehicle, one of which was a foreign national, were arrested with the cash."
Mbele said the investigation continued at the suspects' residence, where a 9mm pistol, 15 rounds of ammunition, and cellular phones were seized. She said the police were tracing the other suspects.
Mohammed and his brother thanked the police and Magma Security.
"We thank Detective warrant officer Sivan Naidoo of Durban Central Violent Crimes, Magma Security and the rest of the team for their hard work and dedication. We are not from here. We are foreigners and to be treated with such respect was really commendable," said Mohammed.
Both suspects appeared in the Durban Magistrate's Court on Monday. Kenneth Masedza, 40, of Savannah Park, and Sanele Archie Gumede, 34, of uMlazi, were charged with kidnapping and extortion.
The case was adjourned to next week for bail consideration.