The man responsible for reuniting missing former SABC chief executive Solly Mokoetle with his family had no idea who he was when he found him dazed and confused outside a local school at the weekend.
“But it is my culture to help a person, no matter who he is,” Tshidiso Papo said on Wednesday.
Mokoetle disappeared on Friday, but he was found in a Phoenix hospital on Wednesday after Papo alerted police. It is understood that he might have had a stroke.
The Mercury tracked down the humble 48-year-old, from Parkgate, in Verulam, who found him and alerted police to his whereabouts.
Papo said it was only on Wednesday morning that he realised the true identity of the man he had found.
“To my shock, I was watching TV and I saw that he was the same man that was missing,” he said.
Papo was at a wedding, next door to the Siphosethu School in Mount Edgecombe, when he and some other guests stumbled upon Mokoetle about lunch time on Saturday.
“We saw someone lying next to the school’s fence and went to check on his well-being,” he said. “He was conscious, but he was very confused and he could not speak.”
They asked an onlooker about the man and were told that he had been there for some time.
“Fortunately, at that time, there was a security vehicle passing by,” Papo said.
They flagged the vehicle down and together they arranged an ambulance.
“We waited with him, but the ambulance came very quickly. In fact we praised the paramedics for that,” he said.
But it was Papo who Mokoetle’s wife, Zola Ntuli, praised on Wednesday.
“I am so very grateful to him,” a relieved Ntuli said.
Ntuli last saw her husband when they returned home, to the Mount Edgecombe golf estate, after watching movies at the Musgrave shopping centre on Friday night.
He watched soccer on television and she went to their bedroom and worked on her laptop. Mokoetle left for a walk around 10.30pm and was last seen leaving through the main gates and heading south, in the direction of a nearby McDonald’s outlet.
He was reported missing the next day and by Tuesday, his family from across the country had travelled to Durban to be with a distraught Ntuli and the four children she shared with Mokoetle.
News of his disappearance started circulating and after Papo saw him on TV, he contacted local police and they tracked Mokoetle down to the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Hospital in Phoenix.
By late Wednesday afternoon, Ntuli was still trying to get Mokoetle transferred to a private hospital, but she hoped to meet Papo and thank him in person in the coming days.
She also expressed her gratitude to the press for its coverage of her husband’s disappearance.
“Without you, we wouldn’t have found him,” Ntuli said.
The circumstances in which Mokoetle disappeared remained unclear on Wednesday with Ntuli saying he was struggling to speak. But, save for a “minor cut” on his head, he was okay.