Humanitarian organisation Gift of the Givers says it is awaiting the next steps in terms of the health of South African Gerco van Deventer, who was held hostage in Mali for just over six years, and arrangements to bring him home to be reunited with his wife and son.
Gift of the Givers said Van Deventer was taken to hospital for a “health review” following his release on Saturday.
According to the organisation’s founder, Dr Imtiaz Sooliman, a trusted intermediary called the organisation to say that Van Deventer had been released into Algeria.
“He could not be released through Mali, apparently because of the current new war between the Mali military and the Tuaregs. The man from Mauritania had requested a release via the Mauritania State Security, but they refused.
Eventually, they chose the route of Algeria to which the State Security agreed.
“South African State Security confirmed last night (Saturday) that Algerian State Security called to inform them that Gerco is freed, that he is with them and taken to hospital for a health review.
We await the next step on his health and arrangements to bring him home to be reunited with wife Shereen and son Asher.
“It has been six agonising years of prayer, patience and hope. May Gerco return home soon, safely,” said Sooliman.
The organisation said Van Deventer was taken in Libya on November 3, 2017, sold to JNIM (al-Qaeda) in Mali in 2018 and finally released unconditionally on Saturday, making him the longest-held South African hostage in captivity.
“Gift of the Givers, at the request of the family, got involved in 2018, contacted JNIM (Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin), whom we dealt with for the release of Stephen McGown, Johan Gustafsson, Christo Bothma and connected many negotiators from various countries to them on behalf of multiple hostages.
“The initial request for Gerco was $3 million, and over time we negotiated the amount down to $500 000.”
However the family could not afford the ransom, there was no benefactor and the company where Van Deventer had just commenced work could not assist.
“Having no ransom to pay for Gerco and no further leverage, negotiations stalled. In January 2023 one of our intermediary contacts in Mali requested us to restart the process.
“During Ramadaan, we requested his unconditional, ransom-free release ... We tried again during the period of Hajj (pilgrimage). Then came the Morocco earthquake. We offered assistance, but it was not required. But the captors who have links with Morocco, sent a message of appreciation.
“We used that moment to request his release once again.
On December 5 someone called from Mauritania, saying they are working on the release. We don’t know the person and have never had contact with him before.”