It was 6:50 pm on a Thursday evening. I was in my bedroom when my thirteen year old son ran in and shouted: “They’re breaking in Mommy”. I had just put my arms around him when I felt the pistol against my head. Within seconds all four of us where face-down on the bed, having our hands tied behind our backs. Our 2 1/2 hour ordeal had started.
Five armed robbers had jumped over our wall and entered through the front door. My Rhodesian Ridgeback, Danni, responded immediately but they got in and they slammed the door in her face. She ran around the house to the bedroom, barking hysterically before realising that she has to be quiet. She lay there the whole night, listening, without making another sound.
In the initial confusion there was lot of noise, barking, curtains being drawn and doors slamming. They closed everything. I had only a few seconds to say something to my kids, this was not an event I had prepared them for. With my face turned towards them I whispered: “Don’t open your mouth or
your eyes, not once! And remember, whether we live or die tonight, we are in Christ Jesus.” That was the last time we would say anything to one another for two and a half hours. Our submissive silence saved our lives. My kids never uttered a sound.
My kids were thrown down on the floor at the foot-end of the bed and my husband and I to the side. We couldn’t see one another. At all times either one or two of the gunmen sat on my kids, hitting them with their pistol butts. And they kept saying to us: “Sleep!” Meaning, play dead.
When they saw that we were going to be still they calmed down a bit. I realized that they were also extremely nervous. They immediately started going through our house, taking what they wanted. They used our cell phones to speak to their superiors and gave information on what types of cars, TV’s etc we had. They were told what to load.
Every now and again they would untie my husband or I to show them where we kept certain items. If we tried to say anything, we were smacked. If they asked a question and we replied, we were smacked. They asked us to open the safe and they took everything in it. But this was where the trouble started. We had no cash in the house, even our wallets were empty that night. I think we had a total of R800 on us. It turned out that they declared everything to their “head office” but not the cash, that they divided among themselves.
They started torturing my husband, to such an extent that my children thought he had died. They dragged him to and from the safe, demanding more money. His pleas that we had no more just made them hurt him more. I offered to give them my bank card with the pin but they refused. I said I would go with them to an ATM but they were not interested.
While this was going on, they were packing up our clothes. They even dressed in it. I was then taken to the kitchen where I was told that I would be raped.
I don’t know why but it did not strike fear in my heart. I never said a thing but I looked him in the eye and said in my mind: “You can do that, but my husband and children will NEVER know about it!” He then just gave me a strange look and moved on, never mentioning it again. I did not even consider AIDS.
Back in the bedroom I could see what they were doing to my husband. I tried to remove myself from it because I could not help him. Then at last I thought of something. I had a very valuable diamond ring left to me by my grandmother. I had it set with her diamond, her mother’s and my mother’s. It was in a different safe which they had not found. So I told him that I had something he might want for which I got a smack to the head. But he told me to take him there.
When I took it out, I explained to him the sentimental value of the ring and that it was all I had left to give him. He listened and must have believed me because he put it on his own finger before telling the others to wrap it up.
They loaded both our vehicles with the loot, including a motorbike and at 9:15, they finally left. Or so we thought. But they were still checking on us in between raiding the fridge. After what felt like hours of listening, they were gone.
By now our hands had lost all circulation and for the first time I felt like panicking. What if I could not untie our hands, would we lose them? But we did. I had fingers without circulation for about a week but my children who were not untied once, battled for weeks.
I phoned my sister-in-law across the road and in no time the cops came. I had about thirteen of them in my house until two in the morning. We were told to go for trauma counselling, which we did. Some of us longer than others.
An incident like this makes you realise that you really are unable to protect the people you love and that is hard, especially for a man. The worst was that
they took from us our sense of security. It is as if we each have a little garden of tranquillity inside of our hearts, where only we go. That night five strangers stormed through our gardens, tearing down the little fences and changing the landscape forever.
I have experience fear before, but nothing like this. I would call it naked terror.
We are fine now, we are not paranoid nor do we live in fear. But when the evening draws to a close and hits 6:50, I close my front door.