Fear, prayers and PlayStation: Soweto father describes reunion with 'kidnapped' son

The Queens High School pupil is reunited with his family at Maponya Mall in Soweto on February 26 2020.
The Queens High School pupil is reunited with his family at Maponya Mall in Soweto on February 26 2020.
Image: Naledi Shange

Pain is evident in the voice of the father of the Queens High School grade 8 pupil who was allegedly kidnapped earlier this week and later found at Maponya Mall in Soweto.

When an emotional *Sipho Mkhabela spoke to SowetanLIVE sister publication TimesLIVE on Thursday morning, it had been about 24 hours since his son was found, following two days of the unknown when he was missing.

He and the family are trying to keep things as normal as possible for the 14-year-old boy but Sipho admits it has been difficult.

“I don’t usually allow him to play on his PlayStation during the week but I have given it to him, just to try and give him a distraction,” Sipho said.

His son disappeared from outside the school on Monday. The boy was alleged to have left in an e-hailing taxi. Then the family got a ransom demand for his safe return. The circumstances around his disappearance are unclear at this stage.

Never do this to anyone again 
Father of Queens High School pupil to kidnapper/s 

*Thando is the youngest of his four children. Sipho said the incident had shaken the whole family.

“There is so much fear ... It was even difficult for his sister to go to school” on Thursday morning, said Sipho, adding he had allowed his daughter to stay home.

Recounting the harrowing two days they had endured, of not knowing whether Thando was alive, Sipho said he was battling to come to terms with it.

“I am trying but I am traumatised. I am battling to make decisions. 

“I am trying to be strong as a dad, but it’s hard. I have to make decisions and some of them I am not sure if they are right or wrong,” he said.

On several occasions, he had to keep himself from breaking down in front of his family.

“I wish I was at liberty to share what we have gone through and perhaps it would bring me closure. I can tell you though, I don’t think this thing is over,” he said.

Sipho told TimesLIVE that the family was still in the dark about what occurred between Monday and Wednesday.

“We would still like to know what happened. But for now, we are taking the advice of the psychologists to not ask him anything about what happened.

“We were told to give him time to cope and deal with what happened ... we are hoping to start talking with him maybe later today or tomorrow. The social workers, psychiatrists and police will need to hear his story cause we all wish to know what transpired,” he said.

Sipho said for the first time in two days, the family had been able to get some sleep on Wednesday night.

His son had slept with his mother while Sipho said he remained close by. His son had woken up before him on Thursday morning.

For now, the family has been welcoming neighbours who have come to share prayers and their relief at the boy’s safe return.

“When the neighbours come in, I ask if we can act normal. We pray for him on our own while he is in a different room,” said the father.

Sipho said while he was unsure why his son was taken, he had a message for those who were behind it.

“One thing I wish for is to eventually look the person who did this in the eye and tell him of the pain he put me through. I want to ask him to never do that to anyone again, no matter how badly that person may have wronged him,” he said. 

*Real names withheld to protect the identity of the child

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