Pretoria - The first thing Hennie Nel does when he wakes up every morning is switch on his television and computer. This has become his routine over the last 19 days - ever since his nephew, Pierre Korkie, and Pierre’s wife, Yolande, were snatched from outside the Taiz Plaza hotel in Taiz on May 27 by suspected al-Qaeda militants.

Nel, 66, from Pretoria is desperate for news, any news, that will shed more light on Pierre and Yolande’s fate.

For it is the silence that is so unbearable. “It’s absolute hell,” he says of the utter lack of information about the couple’s whereabouts and condition. “We watch the news all the time. Every morning, we check the TV and the internet just to see (if there’s been any developments). It’s difficult not having any news.

“All that we know if what we see in the papers.”

The only good news for the family over the past 19 days, however, was the return of the couple’s two children - a boy aged 16 and a girl, 14 - from Yemen where they lived with their parents. The children had been brought back by their temporary guardian, said Suzette Venter, a friend of the Korkies.

Venter said the children were “actually coping very, very well. They are being surrounded by a lot of love and care”.

The Korkies moved to the middle Eastern state four years ago where Pierre - who had taught biology at Grey College in Bloemfontein - worked as a teacher for an NGO, Rafah for Development.

Nel, whose brother Leslie was Pierre’s father, said he had not yet spoken to the couple’s children.

He said his nephew had been returning to South Africa for his 78-year-old father’s funeral when he and his wife were abducted.

The funeral, which had been due to take place in Port Elizabeth on June 6, had been postponed.

Nel said Pierre’s sister had informed him about the abduction as he had not been in touch with his nephew, who was born in Port Elizabeth and attended Marlow College before studying at the University of the Free State, during his stay in Yemen.

The organisation Pierre was working for had apparently notified the family about the abduction.

He said he had only found out about Pierre and his family’s move to Yemen from his brother and sister-in-law. “They weren’t exactly happy about it, although they didn’t say much,” he said.

Pierre’s mother, who was in a frail-care centre in Port Elizabeth, had been informed about her son’s abduction.

“I don’t know how she’s taking it,” said Nel. “According to his sister, she seems okay.” - Saturday Star