Face-to-face talks start to free SA hostage

Johannesburg - Face-to-face negotiations with a group of kidnappers holding a South African teacher for ransom in Yemen are set to begin this week, Gift of the Givers founder Imtiaz Sooliman said on Monday.

Pierre Korkie. Credit: Supplied

On Monday, Anas Al-Hamati, the NGO's office manager in Yemen, would fly into the area where Pierre Korkie was being held, said Sooliman.

“(Al-Hamati) has been in constant contact over the phone, face-to-face negotiations are going to start tomorrow (on Tuesday),” he said.

“(He) will take copies of (Korkie's) South African passport to prove that he is not American, (because) the amount they are demanding is outrageous.”

Korkie's wife Yolande was released last week with the help of the organisation. She and her husband were captured in the city of Taiz in May.

On Friday, the kidnappers asked for $3 million (about R30 million) to be paid within eight days for Korkie's release.

“The first aim is to extend the deadline and the next is to see if we can bring down the amount,” Sooliman said at the time.

He said Al-Hamati had a “good rapport” with the kidnappers.

“We are hoping we can convince them we need more time.”

Sooliman said South Africa's ambassador to Saudi Arabia landed in Yemen on Sunday morning. He would help with transportation and a new passport for Yolande Korkie to return to South Africa.

He said she was feeling better and calmer on Sunday. She had cried for a long time on Saturday, but was now focused on organising a campaign in South Africa to raise the money to get hr husband freed.

“She's very worried about her husband,” said Sooliman.

The Sunday Independent reported that Yolande Korkie told it in a telephonic interview that she could not find the words to thank Gift of the Givers for its help.

“Our hearts are overflowing. The people of South Africa must know that the passion and the commitment of the Gift of the Givers is unrivalled,” she was quoted as telling the newspaper. - Sapa