SA whites flee hostage takers in Mozambique

Fears of ´Somalian style hostage industry´ at SA/Mozambique border…3 white South Africans escaped from 15 armed hostage takers at Ilhas dos Porcos, led by an ´articulate, Portuguese speaking man´…

`They wanted one million Meticais before they would release us…´

HAZYVIEW – The past Easter holiday was marred by two known attacks on white South Africans in the Lowveld and just across the border in Mozambique. One party was attacked and robbed on the idyllic coastal destination of Inhambane while others were held at gunpoint at the luxurious Hulala Lakeside Lodge between White River and Hazyview.

The group which had travelled to Mozambique consisted of three canoeists who managed to escape a possibly lethal hostage situation.  After two days of trying to obtain a temporary passport, they were finally able to return to South Africa. The victims were  willing to talk to Lowvelder about their terrifying ordeal out of fear that a new trend might be taking place in the idyllic neighbouring country, a popular holiday destination for locals – taking them hostage and demanding thousands of rand for their release.

Ferrington Sally escapes with dad and friend Mac Steynberg with cannoes from hostage takers Mozambique

Gauteng visitors Mr John Ferrington (70), his daughter Ms Sally Ferrington (39) pictured, and Mr Mac Steynberg (66), fled from a large group of black hostage takers on Ilhas dos Porcos in Mozambique on April 26 2011 during a five day paddling trip in the bay area Mozambique. They fear that a hostage taking industry may develop in the Indian Ocean country and warn other white South African tourists to be very careful.

They were embarking on a five-day paddling trip in the bay area of Mozambique. Their journey kicked off at Maxixe – 400 kilometres north of Maputo. They left the following  at about 07:30 and paddled north-east to Linga-Linga Point which they had reached mid-afternoon. On Tuesday  they left and paddled to Ilhas dos Porcos, about
12 kilometres from Linga-Linga. “We were about half a kilometre from the island at 10:30 when we noticed that the water was shallow. More or less 300 metres from the shore, the water was too shallow so we had to get out of our canoes and walk across,” Ferrington recalls. “Strangely enough, we didn’t see another soul,” he added.

Fifteen men armed with pangas, spears and knives, led by an articulate Portuguese speaking man´

At about 18:30 they noticed the tide was coming in. They decided to put up camp and at about 19:30 it was completely dark. The Ferringtons and Steynberg would soon realise that they were not alone on the island. Fifteen men, armed with pangas, spears and knives suddenly surrounded them. “They were being led by an articulate, Portuguese-speaking individual,” Ferrington continued. They later gathered that he had been saying that he was the boss of the island and they were not supposed to be there. “My daughter speaks a bit of Portuguese and he told her that he wanted to take us to the ‘secretarial’ of the island.”

Ferrington instructed his daughter to tell him that they would go in the morning. The man then, in English, told Ferrington that they would return the following day  at 07:00 after which the gang left. “However, one of them turned around and snatched a bag from my friend’s canoe. It contained his passport, keys, a camera, spectacles and a large sum of cash.” A few minutes later, two men returned and said that they had been sent to guard them. “I asked them what they wanted, at which one of them said they wanted one million meticais before they would release us.”

Making their escape through thick mud, in the pitchdark, dragging their canoes … hunted by armed men

Ferrington then realised they were being held hostage. “I told my daughter that we had to get out of there immediately.” Another guard grabbed a second pack and disappeared behind the palm trees. That gave the Ferringtons and Steynberg seconds to disappear into the night. Ferrington and his daughter left their tent and belongings behind and dragged their two-seater canoe through thick mud.

They were dragging their canoe in a westerly direction to where they thought the water was. Steynberg was going in a north-westerly direction. “It was so dark, we couldn’t see a thing.” They suddenly saw a flickering light where they had put up camp and heard the group of men following them. Out of sheer exhaustion from pulling his canoe through thick mud, Steynberg dropped it and fell into the water. He lay down in a flat stretch  and remained still.

Within minutes, a group of six men arrived at his boat and searched for him. The rest of them ran after Ferrington and his daughter. Eventually, they were no more than 100 metres behind them when the pair managed to reach water of about half a metre depth. Father and daughter managed to get away and paddled through the waves into the pitch-dark night. Steynberg had been lying in the muddy water for about 30 minutes before he stood up and walked back to the land mass. He reached a swamp and hid there in the freezing cold until 04:00 the following day.

He then walked on the island, searching for his boat. At about 05:00, he came across three men who were on their way to Inhambane to sell fish. “The young men could see that he was rattled and asked what had happened.  On hearing about his ordeal, they said that no one should go anywhere near that island,” Ferrington said.

Mozambique cops at Maxixe claimed that Ilhas dos Porcos was not under their jurisdiction…

The men took him to Inhambane and he took a ferry to Maxixe. Ferrington and his daughter had paddled to Maxixe and found Steynberg there. They went to the local police station where officers apparently argued for 90 minutes about why Ilhas dos Porcos wasn’t under their jurisdiction. They eventually went to the police in Inhambane, but Ferrington described it as “a nightmare of bureaucratic red tape”. After two days, they hadn’t even obtained a case number.
“We eventually got a declaration of a reported theft which we took to the embassy and obtained emergency travel documents.”

´You are on your own in Mozambique… I have never felt so threatened in my life´

They returned to Gauteng on Saturday. Prospective travellers to Mozambique should realise that they are on their own there. “I have never felt so threatened in my life,” Ferrington concluded.

Hulula Lakeside Lodge near Honeydew attacked by five armed black males

Meanwhile at Hazyview just across the border, a five-member gang of black males, armed with pistols and a rifle, attacked five guest-cottages inside a security compound s at 2:am on “Freedom Day” at a Hazyview lodge. The Hulala Lakeside Lodge on Da Gama Dam between White River and Hazyview. Two suspects were traced with gps-tracking activated on a stolen car and stolen I-phone and most of their loot recovered. source: Aliche Bezuidenhout

One Afrikaans couple reportedly was very traumatised after the attack:  Suzelle Pretorius and her friend Johan van Rooyen, were woken up by men holding guns to their backs and were too scared afterwards to sleep in the same cottage again. The guests were overwhelmed in their sleep on Wednesday and robbed of  laptops, cellphones, jewellery, cameras and cash. Ms Diane Head, general manager at the lodge, received a call at about 04:00 from a guest who advised her that there had been a robbery at their Lake Suites.  She in turn contacted Mr Daniel de Waal of Spesplan Security who responded immediately.

Ms Pretorius of Nelspruit and her friend Mr van Rooyen afterwards asked to be moved to another unit for the remaining period with the traumatised couple saying they had trouble sleeping. Van Rooyen said they were held at gunpoint while the suspects took a laptop, cellphone and jewellery inside the suites, after which their hands were tied  and they were taken to another unit where other cuffed couples were already waiting.

SA Police Force spokesman Leonard Hlathi said the five armed black men probably managed to get inside the secure compound through a fence.
“Then they broke panes of glass and unlatched the door latches to the veranda doors of the five lodge cottages,’ he said. Police said they arrested two of the five black suspects, Tsakiwa Shabangu (32) and Sunnyboy Levego (22), and most of the looted items recovered. Ms Head said the police were able to arrest these two because one of the guests had activated his stolen iPhone’s tracking system. He traced the gang on his laptop. the gps-coordinates were given to Spesplan Security and they coordinated with the White River Flying Squad to capture one suspect at Jerusalem Trust squatter camp, while the vehicle was located by Tracker. The second suspect was apprehended by the Hazyview police.Head concluded, “We are thankful no injuries were sustained by our guests and are sorry that they had to endure this traumatic experience.” The suspects appeared in court on Thursday April 28. Their bail application is scheduled for Thursday May 5.

http://www.looklocal.co.za/looklocal/content/en/lowveld/lowveld-news-general?oid=4376179&sn=Detail&pid=490165&Night-of-terror-for-Moz-tourists

About Adriana Stuijt
Retired South African-Dutch journalist formerly Sunday Times Johannesburg

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