Paraplegic forgives hijacker

2008-02-29 00:00

A former athlete and soccer enthusiast whose life was shattered by a hijacking that left him paralysed from the chest down yesterday told one of his attackers in the high court in Pietermaritzburg that he forgives him for his crime against him.

The victim, Thembinkosi Goodwill Mabaso - a qualified teacher who is currently employed in customer services by a local aluminium factory - was asked by Judge Thumba Pillay for his response to an apology offered by self-confessed hijacker, Mbusowenkhosi Nkandi (23), of Ashdown.

Seated in his wheelchair and having moments earlier described the devastating effect of the hijacking on his life, Mabaso responded without hesitation; 'I forgive him'.

The court heard that Mabaso was shot in the side of his neck near his home at Zayeka, Sweetwaters on the night of August 13, 2005, whilst returning from a soccer match at Harry Gwala stadium. He loved soccer and had coached the KwaZulu-Natal women's side and other teams.

He was also a keen athlete who ran about 50 marathons including the Comrades Marathon in 1997.

His assailants dragged Mabaso out of his car, left him lying at the roadside and drove off with his vehicle.

Initially, he said, he 'played dead' so that the hijackers would not shoot and kill him. Later when he tried to get up he found he could not walk. He lay in the dark and called for help and after about 30 minutes a local resident found him and took him to hospital. He was hospitalised in the intensive care unit for two weeks and underwent surgery, but the bullet that paralysed him remains in his body to this day as doctors said it was too dangerous to remove it because it might kill him, said Mabaso. 'I have lots of pain every day because of the bullet still in my body.'

After a month and a half in hospital, he was transferred to Durban's Entabeni rehabilitation centre to learn to use a wheelchair and how to help himself. He also received psychological counselling as he was extremely traumatised.

Mabaso said he still experiences daily trauma when he has to pass the scene of the hijacking, which is en route to his home and which he can't avoid.

He currently has a modified car that he can drive with his hands. He needs constant help and care at home. His employers have helped by giving him a gel cushion to prevent pressure sores from sitting all the time, and built a ramp to enable him to get to his workplace.

Mabaso said his paralysis ended his hopes of marriage to his fiancŽe whom he had been intending to marry just two months after the hijacking, in October 2005. They had been together for 10 years and he had already paid lobola, he said.

Mabaso said he had also hoped to further his studies, but the shooting changed that.

Nkandi earlier yesterday pleaded guilty to charges of attempted murder, robbery with aggravating circumstances and unlawful possession of a 9 mm pistol and ammunition in connection with the incident.

Judge Pillay will pass sentence today.

ingrido@witness.co.za

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