Tanzanian billionaire Mohammed Dewji, who was kidnapped and held for 10 days in October last year, says he was ready to die, having been disoriented by his captivity.
43-year-old Dewji, who is widely considered to be Africa’s youngest billionaire, told the BBC he asked his kidnappers to shoot him. He was speaking to mainstream media for the first time since he was abducted outside a hotel gym in the country’s main city, Dar es Salaam.
Why I asked kidnapper to shoot me
Dewji said he was disoriented and blindfolded at the time he asked the kidnappers to end his life.
“ You get disoriented, you’re tired, because it’s a form of torture. ”
“I was blindfolded and there were times they kept on threatening me with guns to my head and five days, six days into it I was thinking I was losing my eye sight,” Dewji narrated.
“[The kidnapper] was like ‘I’m going to shoot you’ and I was like ‘you can shoot me and kill me’, because I was losing it. You get disoriented, you’re tired, because it’s a form of torture.”
Ten days after his abduction, Dewji was released, and he says no ransom was paid.
Neither the authorities in Tanzania nor Dewji have established a clear motive for his abduction. The billionaire says he was abandoned in a field near the same hostel where he had been kidnapped.
“I still don’t know why it happened,” he said. “Obviously the intention looked like it was money that they wanted. In the end they left me without the money.”
A Tanzanian taxi driver, Mousa Twaleb is the only suspect who is being held in connection with the case.
Lessons from the ordeal
Dewji says he has made a few lifestyle changes following this traumatic experience, including replacing the lights in his house with brighter bulbs and abandoning his habit of jogging alone on the beach.
With wealth estimated at $1.5bn (£980m), Dewji says the experience has also intensified his appetite to ‘give back’.
He says he will invest up to $400m in agriculture in Tanzania over the next two years, ‘not for profit but to make an impact’.
His company, MeTL has interests in textile manufacturing, flour milling, beverages and edible oils in at least six African countries, and Dewji is credited with turning the company from a wholesale and retail enterprise into a multi-billion dollar pan-African conglomerate.