JOHANNESBURG – She bursts into tears and shakes as she describes 25 hours of terror and beatings after being kidnapped and held for ransom.
Felista Ndlovu (29) a Zimbabwean living legally in South Africa, describes how when returning to South Africa after a visit to her family, she boarded a taxi at Beitbridge on the South African side of the border. There were five other people in the taxi – a woman and four men. The driver, she said, began acting suspiciously.
“He drove from the border for a few kilometres, then turned back. There were many phone conversations and I got suspicious, so I called my husband and gave him the taxi number plates,” Ndlovu said.
“After a few hours, and more backwards-and-forwards cellphone conversations, we were told the taxi was no longer going to Jo’burg and a private car would take us instead.
“We kept asking questions and we were getting all sorts of excuses,” she recalled.
The car took a different route to Jo’burg.
“We asked why we were not on the right road to Jo’burg and the driver said he wanted to avoid toll fees.
“He told us we were going via Hammanskraal.
“We eventually stopped at a house where we were herded into an empty room. It was a beautiful house and the driver’s wife and children were there, but they locked us in a room so the children wouldn’t see us. We kept asking what was going on and they would not tell us,” Ndlovu said.
Then the beatings started.
“They made us kneel down with our faces on a chair and they started beating us on the backs of our legs and feet, demanding we call our families and ask them for R2 500 to be released.”
Ndlovu and other captives were then told to sleep on the floor in the bare room.
By then it was 4am. Ndlovu called her husband, Thando Dladla, who at 2:30am walked through the dark streets to the Hillbrow Police Station, where officers refused to help him.
That was despite them having the kidnapper’s cellphone number and the vehicle registration numbers.
“I was shocked at the cops’ attitude. They were joking about it, not even considering the lives at stake. They told us it happens all the time and that we should leave the matter, pay the money and she would be returned.
“They even said it was ‘them’, meaning Zimbabweans, doing it to ‘themselves’. They said they get two such cases a week, but could not act unless the kidnappers could be identified,” he said.
“I was desperate. I borrowed money from my brother and from a loan company and a few hours later, I made the payment through a money transfer,” he said, wiping away tears.
Ndlovu said: “I asked what they would do to us should our families not be able to get the money. They said they would take us back to Zimbabwe and cut off our heads,” she said.
At 7pm, when they received the money from her husband, the kidnapper’s wife made Ndlovu lie on the back seat of the car.
She was given back her passport, her cellphone and R20 and told to find a taxi home, which she struggled to find until late that night, when she found herself in an unfamiliar place.
“When I asked, I was told we were in Tembisa,” she said.
She was dropped off in Jo’burg at 9pm, severely traumatised, but alive.
“But I left five people there whose families could not afford the ransom. I wonder what happened to them,” she said.
Tshepo Mhlatazana, executive director of the Fashion District Institute in the CBD, accompanied the couple to the Jo’burg Central police station to report the matter the next day.
Again, the officers were unhelpful.
It was only when Mhlatazana insisted on seeing a senior officer that he was helped.
He tracked the car registration number, only to find it was false.
“If there is such a big problem, it should be investigated. We don’t know if lives are being lost. The police have failed Felista and Thando. I have no faith in them,” Mhlatazana said.
Brigadier Piet Senekal from the SAPS service delivery unit said they would be contacting the affected people.
Colonel Noxolo Kweza said she was unable to comment as she had no information.- The Star