South Africa 7.6.2018 01:25 pm

Mother hopeful that son kidnapped to Egypt is still alive

Baranese Orif missed out on her son's primary school years altogether. He would have started his first year in high school this year. Photos: Michelle Pienaar

Baranese Orif missed out on her son's primary school years altogether. He would have started his first year in high school this year. Photos: Michelle Pienaar

Mohamed was just five when he was kidnapped by his Egyptian-born father seven years ago.

Although she remains positive that her son is still alive, Baranese Orif mourns his disappearance almost seven years ago when he was kidnapped to Egypt without her consent, George Herald reports.

Five-year-old Mohamed Orif was in Grade R when he went to visit his Egyptian-born father, Ibrahim, in Port Elizabeth during the July school holidays in 2011.

READ MORE: ‘Kidnapped’ woman hands herself over to police

Mohamed lived with his mother and sister in George. His parents were married, but had been separated for two years, during which time he spent many weekends with his dad. When it was time for Mohamed to return home after the holidays, his dad asked if he could stay another week. “I never thought it would be a problem, because he had visited Ibrahim many times before,” said Baranese.

Over the first few days of Mohamed’s visit, Baranese had regular contact with her estranged husband, who repeatedly assured her he would bring the child back to George after the holidays. But when further attempts to contact him by phone failed, the family became very worried.

“I asked family members who stay in PE to go to his flat to check it out,” said Barandese. “They were told he had moved out a week before. There was no furniture in the place. Everything was gone.”

Mohamed was five years old at the time of his kidnapping. He will celebrate his 13th birthday this year on 15 October.

Shock and anger

In the weeks, months and years that followed, Baranese and her brother, Randall Raubenheimer, tried every available avenue for help to find the boy. It was established that Ibrahim managed to fly out of the country with Mohamed on 15 August 2011, with an alleged fraudulent visa document.

Baranese said her signature on the document, with which she has supposedly given consent, was clearly forged.

This was pointed out to the police.

Back in 2012, when the story was covered by the media, Raubenheimer told the George Herald he was shocked at how the matter had been handled by the police and the international relations and cooperation department, which was informed of the case.

Provincial police spokesperson Malcolm Pojie told the George Herald the little boy’s family sent a number of emails to the provincial police commissioner’s office, as well as the George cluster commander, raising concerns over the way authorities had initially handled the issue.

Raubenheimer said the family has spent about R3 000 on phone calls to Cairo and in lawyers’ fees, in a desperate bid to try and locate the boy.

An article on the case was published in the George Herald on 5 July 2012, roughly a year after Mohamed Orif’s disappearance.

Case closed

Pojie said the case had been transferred to Port Elizabeth police for further investigation, as the alleged kidnapping occurred there. Eastern Cape police spokesperson Colonel Priscilla Naidu, however, said the investigation into the kidnapping has been closed.

“The matter was referred to the Directorate for Public Prosecutions in Grahamstown, who indicated that there are no ties between the two countries [Hague Convention]. There was also insufficient evidence to pursue the charge of kidnapping. The complainant was advised to open a case of fraud if she alleged that her signature was forged. I cannot verify whether she had done so at the time.

“We can, however, confirm that neither the father nor the child is in the country.”

A picture of Mohamed’s dad, Ibrahim Orif, that had been on Baranese’s phone and was circulated at the time of her son’s disappearance.

Flame of hope

At night Baranese has to take medication to fall asleep. Since Mohamed’s disappearance, his grandmother died of a stroke. “She told me before she died that I must forgive Ibrahim for what he did to us,” said Baranese.

“I don’t understand why he did it. I never kept his son from him.

“You know, one day, about a year before he took our son, he said to me: ‘I will never take Mohamed from you, because no one will look after him the way you do.’ But he did take my son.”

Her only hope is that one day Mohamed will have a cellphone and by chance search his name on the internet. “If he Googles his name, he will learn the truth. I will wait for that day.” Meanwhile, Baranese holds on to her memories of her son, his love of cars and his bubbly nature.

Newspaper clipping tells the story as it unfolded seven years ago.

“He said to me: ‘One day when I’m big I am going to buy myself a car and I’m going to ride fast.'”

Ibrahim Orif worked part-time at the department of home affairs in Port Elizabeth as an Arabic interpreter.

He was a tradesman by profession. Some of his Egyptian colleagues, who live in George, told Baranese she need not worry, and that Mohamed was in good hands.

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