While he went into the store, I waited outside for him, sitting on one of the benches, as he had done previously. I already did not like it when I saw him disappearing into the clothing section at the back of the shop. It was about two minutes later that I heard people shouting and Modise ran like a rabbit, zigzagging out of the shop. He had jammed something under his sweater but I could not see what it was. He managed to pass the guard, but then an elderly man grabbed him by the arm, not far from where I was still sitting on the bench.

Professional that he was, little Modise did not look at me. Only now did I see what he had hidden under his sweater. When the man gave him a smack against his head, he stumbled and a pair of new black shoes fell on the floor. Much too big for Modise. About my size.

I stood up and went up to the elderly man and the guard, who was now holding Modise firmly by the arm. ‘He stole it for me,’ I said to them calmly. They looked at me in surprise. The same instant, I pulled Modise free of the guard and shouted: ‘Baleka, baleka – run, run!’

Modise ran for his life. But it was not our lucky day. He was caught again at the entrance to the mall by one of the Nedbank guards. Together we were brought downstairs into a kind of interrogation room, where one of the security guys phoned the police.

To protect Modise, I said: ‘Please, Sir, let the little one go. I forced him to steal. Otherwise I would have beaten him up . . .’ The man looked at us in disgust. ‘So young – and already such criminals!’

But he allowed Modise, who looked more like seven than his real age of nine, to leave. Modise played his role perfectly and did not even look at me when he left.

I then asked one of the men if I could use the toilet. He escorted me to one of the toilets, keeping a firm hold on my arm. As we passed the doors to the underground parking lot, I suddenly punched as hard as I could with my free fist into his balls. Then I jumped through the door into the parking area and ran and ran as fast as I could.

Tell us what you think: Will they escape?