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W Cape families fearful for relatives jailed in Equatorial Guinea as ‘yacht spat’ simmers

Frederic Potgieter (left) and Peter Huxham (right), who are held in an Equatorial Guinea prison on drug-related charges, were reportedly used as a negotiation tool to return the vice-president’s yacht. Picture: Graphic

Frederic Potgieter (left) and Peter Huxham (right), who are held in an Equatorial Guinea prison on drug-related charges, were reportedly used as a negotiation tool to return the vice-president’s yacht. Picture: Graphic

Published Feb 26, 2023


The seized super-yacht Blue Shadow has been released, reportedly to aid in the safe return of two South Africans held at the notorious Black Beach prison in Equatorial Guinea.

As the yacht was waiting to be refuelled in Cape Town harbour and prepared for its return to the Central African country, the relatives of Peter Huxham, 53, from Langebaan and Frederic Potgieter, 55, from George were praying for news of their well-being.

Yesterday reports emerged that their release from prison was being used as a negotiation tool for the boat of the country’s “de facto” leader Teodorin Nguema Obiang.

Obiang claims that the yacht belonged to the military, but it was listed as a treasure craft that sails under the Cayman Islands’ flag.

The multi-million rand super-yacht was seized in Cape Town in adherence to an attachment order, seen by Weekend Argus, on February 7 in relation to Daniel Janse van Rensburg's ongoing lawsuit against Obiang.

This is for the outstanding damages awarded to him after a lengthy court battle for his incarceration at Black Beach prison between 2013 and 2015.

Equatorial Guinea’s vice-president Teodorin Nguema Obiang has been embroiled in a battle with a Cape Town business man over the seizure of his yacht to pay for reparations. Picture: Supplied

Janse van Rensburg's lawyer Errol Eldson told Weekend Argus that the yacht, was released on Tuesday but remains in port for fuel and supplies in preparation for its departure.

This week Obiang tweeted that the boat belonged to his county’s defence ministry and he threatened to bar South African ships and aircraft from the country if it was not returned.

Weekend Argus reliably learnt that the release of Blue Shadow was done in the exchange for Huxham and Potgieter who were arrested on drug charges two days after the yacht’s seizure. The duo were preparing to return home following a work stint on an oil rig.

The South African men have since been moved to a prison in Mongomo on the mainland.

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation's head of public diplomacy, Clayson Monyela, said the department requested the move "because Black Beach is notorious".

When asked if he could confirm the yacht’s release, Monyela said “it’s a private matter” and that he could not comment.

Shaun Murphy, a spokesperson for Potgieter's family in George, said his loved ones were in the dark.

"The family is traumatised and they are going through hell,“ Murphy said yesterday.

According to Murphy, Potgieter and Huxham’s arrests were unfounded.

"No official case has been filed against them. This is an incredibly sensitive matter and we don't know which way to go."

Murphy also said the family last heard from Potgieter two weeks ago.

"Since the arrest we have not heard anything from him and there are rumours that they have been moved to another prison, but we cannot confirm this. It's a very frustrating situation because no one can actually provide us with answers."

Huxham’s life partner Kathy McConnachie shared Murphy's fears and frustrations.

"These are absolutely ridiculous allegations. Peter doesn't even drink and he is such a calm person so why would he want to get on a plane with garbage bags filled with cocaine. It's rubbish and I don’t believe it for one second.”

McConnachie said the last time she spoke to Huxham was the day before he had to return to South Africa.

"My granddaughter and I were going to spend the night in Cape Town so that we could pick him up at the airport the following morning,“ she said, chocking back tears.

“Our grandchild still bought her grandfather a pack of Jellybeans because they are his favourite and she always buys them for him when he returns. We are still waiting for his arrival."

McConnachie is clinging to hope that her partner is still alive.

"As long as this yacht that is on our waters is still here, they will not be released. At this stage we believe and trust that everything will work out as it should."

Janse van Rensburg told Weekend Argus he had survived the horrors of being incarcerated in Black Beach for almost two years.

“The first few days for these men, who do not speak Spanish, will be the worst; it will be an extremely difficult time. Being incarcerated in Black Beach is like walking around in a living nightmare, where everything you’ve ever feared in your life unfolds before your very eyes and you are powerless to escape from it or stop it.”

Janse van Rensburg was imprisoned on trumped up charges for nearly 500 days in Black Beach.

Upon his release in 2015, Van Rensburg returned home to George.

In 2016, Janse van Rensburg instituted legal proceedings at the Western Cape High Court against Obiang for having orchestrated his detention and subsequent torture at the infamous prison in Malabo on Bioko Island in Equatorial Guinea. In 2021, Janse van Rensburg was vindicated and Obiang was ordered to pay close to R40 million in damages.

In execution of this claim, the Sheriff of the Court attached and sold the furniture from Obiang’s residences in Clifton and Bishopscourt and filed an application to sell both properties.

Weekend Argus