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I am starting to suspect that Bronkhorstspruit (of buddhist-temple-in-africa fame) may be haunting me.  It all started on Wednesday of this last week, you see, when Olina, our long suffering maid (given the sheer volume of mess that John and I can produce at times) had her father disappear. He had been sick for some days and the department of social services, in their infinite wisdom, had taken him to be looked after and nobody had seen him since. It was a mystery, one demanding to be solved with the utmost urgency. The only clue we had to start with was that he had been in Bronkhorstspruit at the time, and that the social worker who took him had said something about a Sizanani Hospital.

An initial search of the internet revealed some useful information:

  • There is no Sizanani Hospital
  • Trying to get hold of the department of Social Services is harder than trying to find a phone number for God.
  • There is, however, a Sizanani Home Care project in Bronkhorstspruit. To whom further enquiries were directed.

Sizanani. Our first stop. They had not heard of an April Sam. Drat.

Sizanani. Our first stop. They had not heard of an April Sam. Drat.

They hadn’t heard of anyone by the name of ‘April Sam’ – the missing man’s name – being admitted there, but did suggest that, given his advanced age of around 79 years young, he would most likely have been taken to a retirement village nearby named Phumelo. Phoning Phumelo (and phoning. and phoning. and… you get the idea) – the sisters there had no record of anyone by that name.

However…

There was a gentleman who was admitted around the that time, but under a different name – Seteen Voorslag (which, if you are South African, it may occur to you is not a real name). But there was no real means of telling over the phone whether or not this was our man.

We would have to pursue the investigation personally.

And so, the next morning saw Olina, her daughter and her daughter’s daughter (and me) all shoehorned into my tiny little car and speeding off again to the town of the Nan Hua temple – though for wholly different reasons on this occasion. Our first stop was Sizanani. They had said they hadn’t seen him. But they also didn’t sound entirely sure of anything, making it worth our while to make doubly sure that they did not, in fact, have April Sam hidden somewhere and in need of rescue. They didn’t. They also didnt remember us phoning yesterday, but did (again) suggest trying the retirement home a few kilometers onwards – the second destination in our expanding investigation.

Olina frowned, “I don’t think this is him. But I am not sure – it has been a while”.

The sisters at Phumelo remembered us, and it was a short time before we managed to meet the strange Mr Voorslag who had come in at around the right time, with the right sort of medical complaint. This had to be him. Looking at me, however, Olina frowned, “I don’t think this is him. But I am not sure – it has been a while”.

“A while? When last did you see your dad?”

“1973”

(slightly humorous silence)

And so followed a flurry of dialogue between her and Mr Voorslag. In Xhosa. So I can’t really relate what happened, except that Olina did not seem overly enthused with the man that the sisters at Phumelo had presented.  Until she mentioned Molteno – a town in the Eastern Cape, from which she (and her dad) had originally come. Gaining sudden life, the old man began to become quite animated. It was lucky for us that Olina had mentioned the place – as he knew the same people she did. The same streets. Similar stories from the local township.

Though I understood very little of the actual conversation happening around the table, it was clear with each new exchange, that it was becoming more and more likely that we had found the right man. His name was different, but was backed up by an ID document issued in 2005 – and it was highly likely that he had changed his name somewhere after moving to Bronkhorstspruit. Just the simple coincidence that he was someone of the right age, from the same area in the same city in the same part of the country as Olina came from, seemed a little unlikely to be random chance.

Family photo after we found (we are damn sure) Mr Sam.

Family photo after we found (we are damn sure) Mr Sam.

And so, the story has a happy ending. We think. Olina is convinced that we have found him. I am pretty sure.The sisters at the retirement village want a DNA test, which we will be trying to organise in the near future.

And it made for an interesting week.