Joburg woman speaks out about dad missing for 30 years, ‘We just want to know what happened’

A Johannesburg woman says she and her family were left shattered after her dad went missing almost 30 years ago.

Zaheerah Patel (47), her mom, Rahima Loonat (70), brothers, Zunaid (50) and Aadil (40), and two brothers from her dad's previous marriage, Hassen and Hoosein, were devastated after their dad, Shouqat Ally Loonat, disappeared during a business trip to Durban in March 1989.

“When my dad went missing in 1989 it was reported and family and friends helped search hospitals, mortuaries, swamps and everywhere else we could think of,” Zaheerah says.

“In Durban a reward was offered for information but nobody came forward. Only recently have I been using social media to try to put the word out but nobody has come forward yet.”

She adds that people have claimed to see her dad in London and India but haven’t offered any proof.

Shouqat – who often travelled for work – went to meet with suppliers to purchase items for the men and women’s clothing shop the family ran in Westonaria, Gauteng.

“My dad was used to travelling a lot but he loved us a whole lot more and would call like a thousand times a day to check if we were all okay.

“My mom was to meet my dad in Durban after three days to attend a wedding. But after the second day our dad stopped calling and my mom became suspicious and alerted the police, friends and family.”

Zaheerah goes on to say her dad – whom she describes as strong – stayed at the City Lodge Hotel in Durban while he was there.

She adds that the incident occurred about a month after she and one of her brothers returned from their pilgrimage to Mecca with her uncle and his family and were looking forward to spending quality time with their parents.

“He went by plane and left the car at the airport. I can remember not being too happy about my dad going away because I really missed him, so I kept myself busy studying in my room.”

Zaheerah fondly recalls that she was the apple of her father’s eye and hated seeing him leave for business trips.

“I can still picture that moment my dad walked down the passage in his suit and briefcase and I eventually ran out to hug and kiss him goodbye. It was the last time.”

She explains that everything was going well for her family before her dad’s disappearance – but their lives fell apart little by little after he vanished.

“We lived on a lovely farm in Zuurbekom before my dad disappeared, but sadly had to relocate to Lenasia after the family business started doing badly and my mom was forced to sell the shop.

“She’s retired now and receives a monthly pension. I also try to help out where I can.” Zaheerah says that after getting married she even changed her name from Zarina because she hoped her life would change for the better.

In 1993 she got her degree in Production Management from the Technikon Witwatersrand and also got married that year. But her dad missed these pivotal moments in her life.

“I kept hoping my dad would walk through the door.

“To this day I’m still hoping to see him. I pray for him every single day. Only God knows what happened to him.”

Her dad would've been 73 in May.

“We hope to find our dad if he’s still alive and if not then we just want to know what happened to him and who’s responsible for his disappearance.

“That person should stand trial and be brought to book for what they’ve done,” she adds.