Newsmaker – Mongezi Phike: The little survivor

2014-07-27 15:00

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Mongezi Phike wants to be a policeman when he grows up.

It’s not an unusual dream for a young boy, but Mongezi is motivated by personal experience?–?he wants to arrest the bad guys like those who hijacked his father last Thursday.

The six-year-old’s story horrified, then delighted, South Africans when he was safely reunited with his family this week.

Mongezi has no problem talking about his ordeal as we sit at his grandmother’s home in Delmas, Mpumalanga.

He missed school this week because he has been in trauma-counselling sessions and is excited to return to his Grade 1 class tomorrow. He tells his harrowing story with a big, beautiful smile.

“I tried to fight the tsotsi who was sitting on the front passenger seat holding me, but he told me to keep quiet and sit still or they would kill my dad,” he says as he starts talking about the hijacking.

“They struggled with my dad until one of them hit him with a gun on his head.”

Mongezi grew afraid when his father stopped fighting.

Aaron Phike was tied up and masking tape was wrapped around his eyes and nose. When they pulled over at the side of the road, Mongezi heard his father murmuring.

He yelled: “Ubaba uyaphila!” (Dad is alive!).

His father, sitting next to him at the kitchen table, smiles at this. “My father can fight, you know. He beat up those tsotsis and they even said he fights like a bull.”

His father grins. “You are the hero here, my boy,” he says.

The father and son’s ordeal started at an intersection in Bronkhorstspruit when they stopped to offer a lift to two women who were hitchhiking. But the women were going to Tembisa and the Phikes were headed to Delmas.

Phike says he thinks the hijackers heard him say he was going to Delmas because four men suddenly jumped into his car saying they were going in the same direction.

After a kilometre, they ordered Phike to pull over.

“The next thing, I saw the tsotsis fighting with my father and pushing him into the back seat,” says Mongezi.

Soon after, he realised his father was injured, but still alive. The hijackers disappeared into the bush with him leaving Mongezi alone in the locked car.

The boy says he was afraid to leave the car because it was dark and he didn’t know where he was.

The hijackers returned without his father. They all slept in the car that night. On Friday morning, they dropped him off at a house with a strange family, who he says treated him well.

“Even when I cried and refused to eat, they begged me to eat and promised to take me to my parents afterwards. But they never did.”

After about four days, the family dropped him off outside an office in Joburg's city centre and drove off.

Mongezi walked in and told a woman in the office that some tsotsis had dropped him off at the gate.

She thought he was lost and called the police. They took Mongezi to the police station and then to a shelter.

It was there while watching the evening TV news that Mongezi saw his mother, Lizzie, pleading for information on his whereabouts.

“I shouted out and told the woman who was looking after us that this was my mother. They also showed my picture on TV,” he says.

The next morning, as Mongezi ate breakfast, his mother walked into the kitchen with police officers. After a tearful reunion, they went home and Mongezi raced into his parents’ bedroom to see if his father was there.

He wasn’t?–?and the little boy wept, thinking his dad was dead. But this is a story of happy endings.

Phike?–?the man who fights like a bull?–?and his plucky little son were reunited that afternoon.

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