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WATCH | Kidnapped: How Bangladeshi man was held for ransom a day after entering SA

Shabuj Mia​ is one of 10 Bangladeshi nationals snatched while travelling from the Musina border to an undisclosed location in SA

28 February 2022 - 15:01 By EMILE BOSCH
An EMPD officer stands guard as police raid Bruma Lodge in Johannesburg on February 10 2022.
An EMPD officer stands guard as police raid Bruma Lodge in Johannesburg on February 10 2022.
Image: Emile Bosch

As the sounds of a Sunday afternoon cricket game fill the air around a worn-out sports field in Springs, one figure stands slightly separated from the group of Bangladeshi men gathered to watch. 

Shabuj Mia​ is one of 10 Bangladeshi nationals snatched while travelling from the Musina border to an undisclosed location in SA. The group had entered the country illegally.

After being rescued during a police operation, Mia is under the care of his “people” or extended family — a far cry from the events that transpired after his arrival in SA on January 26. 

Having sold their possessions to leave Bangladesh in search of a better life, Mia and company were welcomed to SA by being kidnapped and held for ransom.

Mia says the group crossed the border at about 4pm for a short drive before being transferred to another vehicle with a different driver. They travelled for three hours towards Pretoria before being stopped by alleged police officers. 

“Two police officers stopped us. The police wanted money from the driver, but he didn’t have enough,” Mia says. 

The police officers allegedly demanded R1,000 from the driver, which he said he couldn’t pay. 

They were allegedly transported in the police vehicle to Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane.

On February 10 a team of EMPD Swat​, organised crime and K9 officers raided the Bruma Lodge in Johannesburg.
On February 10 a team of EMPD Swat​, organised crime and K9 officers raided the Bruma Lodge in Johannesburg.
Image: Emile Bosch

Mia says that at this point it dawned on him that the group had been sold from captor to captor. They were taken to a house in Johannesburg. During their three-day imprisonment there, the group met the “boss” of the operation, described by their captors as “the Pakistani”.

“At 5pm the Pakistani guy arrived to take us. He called our families in Bangladesh saying we aren’t eating, that we are suffering.”

The ransom calls took place for days from the house before they were moved to a lodge in Bruma.  

“They split us into two cars, five in each. They took us to Bruma Lodge.” 

On February 6 police received information about a Pakistani who made the ransom calls to the families of the men. Dilpazeer Azam, 39, was arrested in Centurion later that day during a police intelligence-led operation. ​

Despite Azam's arrest, investigating officers took their time in finding the hostages in an attempt to minimise the risk of loss of life.  

On February 10, a team consisting of the Ekurhuleni Municipal Police Department (EMPD) Swat team, police organised crime and K9 officers rescued the 10 men. 

“Police told us not to worry and we were safe. They kept asking where the two accomplices were,” he says. 

After the rescue, 42-year-old business owner Rendani Ramaligela and 45-year-old Sergent Solomon Masipa were arrested for their alleged involvement in the crime. 

The three suspects face charges of kidnapping, extortion and corruption and  appeared in court in Polokwane on February 17.

Mia and the other nine victims have been left in the care of relatives and are waiting to hear their status to remain in the country. 

Shafiqul Islam, who runs an NPO called Mukto Bangla Foundation and Association of SA, says he has assisted in more than 70 kidnapping cases involving Bangladeshi nationals in the past three years. His team has assisted in at least 150 cases during this time.  

“Kidnapping is a huge problem in SA. It started a long time ago, but now it's a bad situation. Never mind if you're Bangladeshi, Pakistani, South African, Indian, Chinese, Ethiopian ... everybody, whoever, trying to live a comfortable life, doing their business, can be taken. Anybody can be a victim any time, anywhere,” he says. 

Research by the Institute for Security Studies based on SAPS data shows that between the 2010/2011 and 2019/2020 financial years, reported kidnappings increased by 133%. 

A TimesLIVE investigation has revealed international syndicates operating in SA are pushing this trend, often targeting foreign business owners and travellers from Asia. ​

TimesLIVE


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