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Not Child’s Play: Kidnapped. Held Hostage. A True Story, by Dave Muller

Not Child’s Play: Kidnapped. Held Hostage. A True Story by Dave Muller is out at the end of October 2019.

‘The most gripping book on Africa I’ve read in years.’ – James Clarke, bestselling author and journalist

In 1990, Dave Muller sails to Mozambique with his wife, Sandy, and two young children, to fulfil a boyhood dream of voyaging to the tropics on the yacht he’s spent 10 years building.

The fantasy holiday comes to a shocking end when the yacht runs aground on a stretch of beach near the Bazaruto Islands. While waiting for high tide to refloat their vessel, a patrol of five child soldiers armed with AK47s arrive, along with their two adult captives. The young boys ransack the yacht, taking the terrified Muller family hostage.

Not Child’s Play brilliantly traverses the Mullers’ nightmare of seven weeks in captivity. Plagued by intense mental and emotional strain, with the fear of violence and death a constant, as the days drag slowly by, uncannily the hostages and captors begin to bond.

Their eventual rescue 49 days later, in a covert operation by the SA Navy and Navy Seals, was dramatic, the stuff that Hollywood action movies are made of.

Vividly written, Not Child’s Play will keep you spellbound.

‘It looks like we have visitors,’ I cheerfully announce. Sandy and I walk towards the shapes, which morph into two adults and five children. We’re relieved at the prospect of some help. I’ve confirmed from our chart that we are indeed aground on a spit of land that trails into the sea about 10 kilometres north. The Island of Magaruque, our destination, lies a mere 20 kilometres beyond. I assume the visitors are fishermen from the island. When they’re about 200 metres away, the islanders stop and stand facing us, leaning on walking sticks. This seems oddly reticent behaviour given the warmth we’d experienced in Maputo. We slow our pace, uncertain over their hesitancy.

The five children, who we can now see are teenage boys, detach themselves from the adults and sidle inland as if to bypass us. The older couple remains on the beach. We continue towards them until understanding comes like a punch in the stomach. The boys aren’t carrying sticks; those are AK47s and they are now crouching down, one knee on the sand, aiming their rifles at us. We glance across to the adults and see that they are weighed down by large bundles over their shoulders. From their defeated stature, they are clearly captives.

The enormity – the horrific implication – of the sight before us is overwhelming. We are barefoot, dressed in shorts and T-shirts, exhausted, our children a hundred metres away, utterly defenceless. Reality slowly turns itself inside out; rather like the way I’d seen men in Maputo killing octopuses. My first thoughts are that this cannot be happening. The scene before us is generally viewed from the safety of a TV screen.

About the author

Dave Muller is a retired architect. In 1999 he was appointed as President Mandela’s architect for his Qunu home. He is also the designer of the Tricircle Pavilion, which received an Award of Merit from the SA Institute of Architects. His passion is sustainable living and he has delivered a number of lectures on this subject. Putting theory into practice, he recently designed and, largely with his own hands, built a fully sustainable, off-grid house overlooking the Gqunube River near East London where he and his wife now live.

Categories Non-fiction South Africa

Tags Dave Muller Jacana Media MFBooks Joburg New books New releases Not Child's Play


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