[intro]Palesa Dlamini, not her real name, almost lost her life last month. She wants to tell her story so that other students can be more aware of safety issues.[/intro]
Late one night she was doing an assignment in her room at Unilofts, the private residential accommodation off the UFS campus, when her friend called her to join him outside. As she approached his car in front of the residence, she noticed three young men walking in the direction of the car. She paid them little attention as she got into her friend’s car.
Ten seconds later, they pounced on the driver, dragging him out of the car and forcing him into the boot. Next they came for her and tried to force her into the boot as well. She could not fit. When she told them this, one of them hit her with his gun on her face and head. She screamed. They put her into the back seat and drove off. The one who started with the beating kept on doing so pushing her down and telling to stay down.
After a while, the car stopped. They forced her into the boot with her friend. They took his wallet and asked him how much he had, he said roughly R2000-R3000. They asked him for his card pin, which bank he uses and if he had a daily limit. They carried on driving until they got to an ATM where they warned him that if the money did not all come out or if the pin was incorrect they would shoot them.
They came back from the ATM saying that the money did not all come out. The three agreed that they should swipe the card rather than withdraw money. They drove off again for a while, they stopped again at some place but Palesa said she didn’t know where they stopped this time around.
She could hear more voices and they stayed there for quite some time. Finally they drove off again for about two hours. They stopped and got them out of the boot in the middle of bushes and made them walk deeper into the bushes. They couldn’t really see where they were because they were told to look down. They were warned if they looked up, they would get shot. They were then made to lie on the ground in opposite directions.
After some time one young man left with the car. He came back, chatted to the two others then left again. They said he would call them once the car reached a certain point. When the call came, Palesa and her friend had to count to 200 before getting up and leaving. When the call came, they gave them directions to the road and told them how to get to the police station.
They walked on the road for about an hour, and eventually found the Heidedal police station. Here they called their families. The police then called a van to take them to Parkweg police station where they laid charges against the three men.
Two days later the car was found in Lesotho and two suspects were taken into custody.
Palesa has found it tough to recover from this traumatic incident. Her friend described the experience as something from a movie script. “They seemed very prepared and I believe that it is something that they had done before. I did not even consider resisting at any point as I feared that if I enraged them they would do something really bad to my friend. The last few hours of the hostage situation were really bad as I expected to hear gunshots at any given moment. I wouldn’t wish for anyone to go through what we went through, but at the same time I’ve started to appreciate things a little bit more and I am thankful that none of us were seriously injured.”
Unilofts has since beefed up its security. Wilfred Van Zyl and Andre Landman who represent Unilofts management said they had installed two more cameras and were sorry about what had happened to one their students. “We hope the cameras will make a difference, but as a community we need to work together to stop crime, and have more awareness about crime,” they said.
Palesa and her friend prefer not to disclose their identities to The Journalist.