Brave legal practitioner risks it all to save a man from hijackers

February 1st, 2024

In this issue of SA Lawyer we feature legal practitioner, Mpho Nefuri, who displayed an unbelievable act of bravery by chasing armed hijackers to save a man’s life. Her story made headlines when a video of her chasing hijackers surfaced on social media platforms.

Ms Nefuri is a legal practitioner and a humanitarian passionate about giving back to the less fortunate. News Reporter Kgomotso Ramotsho spoke to Ms Nefuri to find out about her courageous act and her personal story of how she got to where she is in her life today.


Legal practitioner, Mpho Nefuri risked her life to save another. Picture source:

Kgomotso Ramotsho (KR): You have recently been in media for what one can describe as an act of bravery? Can you briefly tell us what transpired?

Mpho Nefuri (MN): It was a normal day on the 13 September 2023, and I was driving to work. I then spotted some unusual activity in front of me. I did not pay much attention until a motorist shouted, ‘they are hijacking the car’. I then knew for a fact this is my battle. I needed to save the abducted driver. I then blocked the hijacked vehicle, rolled down the window and shouted: ‘Let go of the driver and take the car’. They did not listen. I continued to block their right of way up until the passenger at the back opened the window and drew a gun. He pointed right at me and started shooting. In my mind I said if it is a war let it be. I chased the vehicle until they decided to abandon the car. The shooter came back facing me shooting. All I wanted to achieve was to save the abducted driver.


KR: What made you pursue the hijackers, and what thoughts were running through your mind? Did you have a plan for when you caught up with them?

MN: The life of the driver was at stake. I did not think of anything, not even myself, except that the victim may be killed. Just chasing and possibly getting backup to save the victim was the only thought in my head. I had no other plan except chasing the hijackers until the victim was saved.

KR: On an ordinary day you would not find a citizen chasing criminals in this country, because these criminals are not afraid to kill. Were you not afraid when they started shooting at your car?

MN: Two bullets hit the car. They never shook me. I was never nervous nor worried about anything. I knew somehow, I will get something right. When you love genuinely without expectation you do not think of any repercussion. God ushered me to the war, and he fought.


KR: South Africa has been ranked as one of the countries with the highest rates of crime and we have also seen hijacking incidents spike in the past several years. Often you find that the people who carry out these acts are repeat offenders who have been arrested and have been imprisoned before. What is your view on this and what does it mean, for our criminal law. As a country do we need to change the law regarding sentencing?

MN: Our system has some flaws, and it is up to us as a country to unite and root out any activity that might compromise the sustainability of safety within our country. We need to have amendments on our current laws. Offenders are not in any ways scared to kill believing they will not be traced, arrested, and prosecuted. Corruption is also a contributory factor.

KR: How important is it for you that every single person in this country be protected, feel protected by the laws of this country. What sort of justice do victims of crime deserve?

MN: As much as everyone has a right to life, (criminals) take away that right and still walk free. We are not safe and there are thousands of unlicensed guns looming around.


KR: This is not your first encounter with a shooting incident. You previously observed a shooting at a magistrate’s court. Can you tell us about that experience?

MN: It was also one of those days where one is so relaxed in court as we await our matter to be called. On that specific day, I was in and out of holding cells consulting with my client (one of the escapees).

All of a sudden as I was in court we heard a commotion, then bullets started flying all over. As we all ran for the exit, I realised I was running in the same direction as the shooter. Since he was my client, he shouted ‘JR etswa mo tseleng ke fete’ (get out of the way and let me pass). I froze and made a drastic turnaround. I could not use the elevator that day, so I had to use the staircase. God has just been great.


Ms Nefuri is a first-born daughter to her parents and has three siblings. She is blessed with three children. She started primary schooling at Siloam Primary School, then Mushaathoni and Nngweni Secondary School where she matriculated. She proceeded to the University of Venda (UNIVEN) and studied an LLB and LLM. However, due to a lack of any other relevant programme, she revealed that she was forced to leave UNIVEN for Pretoria. ‘I had no support system to take care of me after varsity. Student (university) funds sustained me from first year until Masters,’ Ms Nefuri said.

Ms Nefuri found herself in a difficult situation, where one might choose not to endure, and dropout and go back home. In her third month while she was attending classes at Legal Education and Development (LEAD), the education division of the LSSA, she found herself sleeping in the street since she could not afford any rental in Pretoria. But a good Samaritan by the name of Salomé le Roux chose her for articles. ‘It was not an easy route, however, God sheltered me until I finished my articles and was admitted as an attorney. My humble beginning shaped me,’ Ms Nefuri added.


KR: How did you transition from experiencing homelessness to establishing your own law firm?

NM: God remembered me. I stayed focused. I put aside any pressure from my peers and saw myself championing to higher space. No one knew I was homeless at Law School. I was the most bubbly and charismatic student. Guess what? I ended up teaching there.


KR: What field of law do you specialise in?

NM: Human rights law is my passion. I am a different and chosen one. I felt it is my responsibility to champion and advocate for less marginalised community. Children and women, LGBTIQA+ is my soft spot. I also litigate civil matters.


KR: Share with us your passion for advocating for the rights and well-being of the LGBTQIA+ community.

NM: I am identified as lesbian. Married to my beautiful wife. It gives me pleasure raising awareness on basic human rights especially LGBTIQA+ issues. I have recently celebrated public apologies from two individuals who were bullying and saying mean words to gays and lesbians on social networks. The intentions were to litigate against them. They understood that their deed was wrong and apologised and further contributed to the Nefuri Foundation as a sign of remorse. Gays and lesbians face discrimination, abuse, and cyberbullying. Hate crimes are an everyday experience to LGBTIQA+ people in SA. I can leave paying clients to go do pro bono on human rights matters.


KR: Tell us a bit about the Nefuri Foundation.

NM: This was established in 2018. I walked into a school kid with torn flip flops going to school. I was heartbroken. I then opted to tithe through buying shoes monthly. Since 2018, we have contributed and distributed over 8 000 pairs of shoes to all nine provinces. We go to all provinces and randomly pick schools and we give school uniforms and any necessities. We have also made applications to the High Court compelling the Department of Home Affairs to issue birth certificates to minor children that have been struggling to get certificates. We have built toilets and a few container classrooms. We do not have any funding from any entity. We hope to grow and have schools, orphans boarding schools etcetera that depend on us.

Kgomotso Ramotsho Cert Journ (Boston) Cert Photography (Vega) is the news reporter at De Rebus.

This article was first published in SA Lawyer in 2024 (January) DR 7.

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