This month Port Elizabeth pastor and men’s movement founder Zolile Dayimani, 52, survived a terrifying hijack ordeal and a heart attack.
It has also been a time in which his calling to restore the dignity of men caught up in crime and abuse has shifted from theory to practical, leaving him more determined than ever to share the love of Jesus with men like the four violent, young men who recently held him at gunpoint and tormented him for three hours after abducting him on a quiet suburban street and driving away with him in his own car.
Dayimani gives all glory to God for delivering him from his captors. He said he did not attempt any heroics or draw on any spiritual strength of his own at the time. In fact, he sobbed as the angry, swearing young men demanded a large amount of money that they believed — incorrectly — that he had in his possession and threatened to kill him if he did not stop “lying” to them and hand over the cash.
“At that moment I did not even have the strength to pray. And this is a pastor speaking, somebody who has prayed for people and seen God healing them, and who has prayed with people through many difficulties,” he said.
But after three hours of terrifying captivity, God sovereignly and supernaturally delivered him from the hijackers.
“And I just really want to share how God can come through for you without you doing anything because He is God,” said Dayimani.
He said his nightmare began seemingly innocently at lunchtime on Friday, July 5, as four men in blue overalls approached him in Greenshields Park where he was supervising a team of 13 men digging a trench. He was a sub-contractor on the project as part of his commitment to creating employment for men. The four men, who addressed him as uMfundisi (Pastor) Dayimani, told him they were looking for work and left after he made a note of their phone number and promised to call them if a work opportunity came up.
After a short while, the men came back. He was busy making notes in a book which he was resting on the bonnet of his car. He was not concerned about the men’s return until he felt something hard pressed into his back and the men spoke to him quietly but firmly, telling him to be quiet and to get into the back seat of his car or they would shoot him. He obeyed the men and they drove away with him, with two of the hijackers in the front and one on either side of him. His own work team carried on digging nearby, unaware of the unfolding drama.
Dayimani’s abductors told him they knew that he had R120 000 and would shoot him if he did not give them the full amount. He showed them figures in his book that indicated that he was only due to pay his team about R6 000 but that he would not have that money until later in the day. They angrily warned him not to be a hero if he wanted to live and said they were not interested in his money — they wanted “the white man’s money”.
They stopped the car in a deserted area in Kwazakhele and said: “Now we mean business old man. We are sick and tired of your stories.”
Dayimani said he saw himself ending up dead in a pool of blood without his wife and children even knowing about it. Tears began to flow down his face and the men shouted at him to stop crying as it was bringing them bad luck.
Eventually, the driver, who appeared to be the leader, began to believe he did not have the money. It took a while before the others accepted this. They then found his bank card and asked him for his pin number, which he gave to them as he realised that God could always provide him with more money but that he should not gamble with his life with young men who had so little value for his life.
As one of the men got out of the car to use his card at an auto bank machine he warned Dayimani that he would die if the pin number proved incorrect.
Life or death
After withdrawing R5 000 with Dayimani’s bank card the men were pleased that at least they had got something for their trouble. But they were uncertain about what to do with him. The driver wanted to release him but the others wanted to “finish him off” because he could identify them.
He sat helplessly as the men had an angry shouting match about whether he should live or die. He could feel their hatred and their breath. He felt so small and belittled by his tormenters. But as he looked at their faces he also realised that “it was for these very men that we have been called”.
He remembered how, just two days previously, he had preached to such men in St Albans Maximum Security Prison– “and men of this age gave their lives to the Lord”.
He remembered how last year he started the Phila Ndoda men’s movement with a vision of restoring the dignity of men who were involved in crime, rape and abuse.
He sobbed in anguish as he thought: “The very men whose restoration I am championing are tormenting me.”
“I knew there was nothing I could say or do in the situation. I could not reach them culturally by saying I am as old as your fathers. Nor could I touch their hearts politically by saying: ‘I am black like you’. They don’t operate like that. I realised that it is only Christ’s love that could penetrate these boys’ hearts and convict them. It is like they have sold their souls that they think: ‘This is so right and we have to do it’. “
He had seen the result of that transforming power of Christ two days earlier at the prison, when a man who had come to faith in Jesus in jail where he was serving a life sentence for murdering a woman who attended Dayimani’s church — and was his spiritual daughter — was able to come up to him and say: “Good morning pastor, how are you?”
Finally, the hijackers decided to let the pastor go. They told him to get out of the car, which by then was parked in Soweto On Sea, and to get in at the driver’s door and go.
Dayimani said he experienced another especially terrifying few moments as he walked to the front of the car with the men standing behind him. He wondered if it would all end with a bullet in the back of his head.
Just before he drove away the leader said mockingly that perhaps someday he would see him again at his church.
Dayimani said he now knows that he will see the men again and share the love of Christ with them.
“They don’t have to come to Family Worship Centre in Walmer [Dayimani’s church] but they can come to the Kingdom church which I will lead them to, which is the Church of Jesus Christ.”
He said men like the hijackers ended up in prison and he would see them there to introduce them to Christ.
He said he had not reported the crime to the police as some people said he should as he felt there was no point.
He believes that just as it would have been pointless for Daniel to look for a stick to chase the lions with after God supernaturally delivered him from the lion’s den, it would be pointless for him to go after the young men after God had supernaturally delivered him against all logic since he could easily identify all of them.
He said after his ordeal he had difficulty sleeping, had some flashbacks and he felt nervous near unknown men — “Now every man is an attacker.”
He was having trauma counselling which was helpful although it was difficult for him as a Xhosa man to sit down on a couch and talk to another man.
A day after his hijacking he experienced a brief bout of chest pain which his wife, Nolitha, thought might be a panic attack.
But on the Sunday before last, after church, he experienced a more intense chest pain and difficulty breathing. Somebody suggested he take aspirin and he drove to the shops to buy some. But as the pain worsened he decided to drive straight to hospital.
At St George’s Hospital he was examined and initially told that it appeared not to be a heart problem. But on further examination, he was rushed to an operating theatre where doctors said it was amazing that he had managed to drive to hospital and wait for tests while he was having a heart attack. They showed him on a screen how three of his arteries were blocked. They inserted a stent in one of the blocked arteries and he will have another operation on August 13.
He is taking his counsellor’s advice and taking a break from preaching, which is not easy for him.
“I say now that the Lord is my Shepherd. He has supernaturally delivered me.
“One thing that consoles me is that as I survived the hijack and the heart attack, I know my time has not yet come.
“So I am coming out of this experience more determined to reach out to men and spread the Gospel. Why should we fail when we are tested?”
During his time in hospital, Pastor Jimmy Crompton leader of Word of Faith Christian Church, who had initiated the recent outreach at St Albans Prison told him that the prison authorities were pleased with their ministry and said they can use a bigger hall to reach more people at their future outreaches. Dayimani said he looked forward to the next chapter of ministry.