Gift of the Givers negotiator Mohamed Yehia Dicko has been hailed as “leaving no stone unturned” in efforts to reunite South African Gerco van Deventer, who was held hostage in Mali for just over six years, with his family.
In a statement, the humanitarian organisation thanked the multiple intermediaries in Mali, Morocco, Mauritania and Niger for their “incredible support” in securing an unconditional release for Van Deventer, who has finally been reunited with his family.
“We thank Algerian State Security for accepting Gerco, it wasn’t possible through two other countries. We thank SA State Security who have been extremely helpful and co-operative in the entire process, we met personally on several occasions.
“Our greatest thanks go to the real hero without whom the release would never have been possible, Mohamed Yehia Dicko, Gift of the Givers negotiator, who left no stone unturned to make this a reality.
“He never gave up, went to Mali for weeks at a time sacrificing his family, his personal interest, his time and himself. He almost lost his daughter in a freak accident this year while he was busy with discussions at a crucial stage of the negotiations in Mali, but he didn’t just up and leave. He entrusted his daughter to the Almighty, completed those discussions, then returned to SA.
Fortunately, his daughter, who was admitted to the ICU, survived.”
They also thanked the teachers of Pelican Park who held a placard display for Van Deventer during Ramadaan, the Muslim Judicial Council for the letters of support they provided to forward to the captors, and South Africans for their support.
“A special message of commendation to Shereen van Deventer, a remarkable woman of strength and patience. We are in awe of her faith, positivity, calmness and composure in this entire process.
“Gerco made it home to Shereen and Asher for Christmas and we are immensely relieved that an ordeal of six years and one month is finally over.
“Gerco was the longest standing South African hostage in captivity.
We wish him well as he moves forward in his ‘new’ life.”
Gift of the Givers had said Van Deventer was taken to hospital for a “health review” following his release earlier this month.
The organisation said Van Deventer was taken in Libya on November 3, 2017, then sold to JNIM (al-Qaeda) in Mali in 2018.
Gift of the Givers contacted JNIM, whom they dealt with for the release of Stephen McGown, Johan Gustafsson and Christo Bothma, and connected many negotiators from various countries to them on behalf of multiple hostages.
The initial request for Gerco was $3 million (R55m), and over time the amount was negotiated down to $500 000. However, the family could not afford the ransom and negotiations stalled. In January 2023, a Gift of the Givers’ intermediary contacts in Mali requested them to restart the process.