Gift of the Givers Yemeni manager Anas al-Hamati,right, with Yolande Korkie shortly after she was released.

Johannesburg - Yolande Korkie's release by Al-Qaeda, who kidnapped her and husband Pierre in Yemen, was one of the worst moments of her life, she said on Thursday.

“Apart from the day we were kidnapped, to be separated from Pierre in that way was the worst moment of my life,” she told reporters in Johannesburg.

She pleaded for her husband's release as the ransom deadline approached.

Korkie, who appeared gaunt and frail, was released last week after the Gift of the Givers Foundation negotiated with her captors.

The couple, who have been married for 20 years, were abducted in the city of Taiz, in Yemen, in May.

Korkie said her husband was in poor health when she was released. He had a hernia and his renal system was damaged.

On Friday, the kidnappers demanded payment of US3 million (about R32.5m) within eight days to secure Pierre Korkie's release.

Yolande said the kidnappers had believed they were American when they abducted them because “their perception of Westerners was based on skin colour”.

Speaking in a soft voice because of a threat infection, she said: “My strength came from God.”

Negotiations for her husband's release had not been going well, said Imtiaz Sooliman, who heads the Gift of the Givers Foundation.

Sooliman said the captors had been asked for another month, and Al-Qaeda's response was being awaited.

Korkie said she believed her husband had found some peace in the fact that she was safe and their children were okay.

“The next 48-hours are going to be crucial,” family spokesman Michael Venter said.

He asked South Africans for their emotional support and prayers.

Reading from a statement earlier, Korkie asked her husband's kidnappers to release him.

“Al-Qaeda, I ask to address you. Thank you for releasing me and giving me back to our children, treating us with kindness and respect and bringing my husband medicine... I'm asking you to release my husband.”

Korkie described her husband as a humble and gentle man. He had been teaching in Yemen, while she had worked in hospitals helping with relief work.

Referring to the fable of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon, Korkie said the Yemeni people were gold.

“No one told us we would fall in love with the people,” she said.

She reminded the kidnappers of the forgiveness preached by former president Nelson Mandela.

“We are asking you to show mercy, to please show tolerance.”

Sooliman said a South African flag was placed behind Korkie at the press conference to emphasise that she and her husband were South Africans.

“There is no merit in harming him,” he said.

The Gift of the Givers' Yemen office manager Anas al-Hamati started face-to-face talks with the kidnappers on Monday night.

“While Anas was with them, the Al-Qaeda guys called me and asked: 'What's the problem?' I said there's no money, the price is too high, and the time is too short,” Sooliman said at the time.

“Anas discussed the same points. They kept on saying if we don't have the money by Friday, it will be the end for Pierre.”

Korkie arrived back in South Africa on Monday afternoon.