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'Positive feedback' in pursuit to release SA hostage Gerco van Deventer

Claire Keeton Senior features writer
Shereen van Deventer at home in Swellendam hoping for the release of her husband Gerco.
Shereen van Deventer at home in Swellendam hoping for the release of her husband Gerco.
Image: Michael Walker

The Gift of the Givers has engaged the captors of paramedic Gerco van Deventer, who has been held hostage in Mali since November 3 2017, said director Dr Imtiaz Sooliman on the return of their negotiator this week to South Africa.

Sooliman said they will meet their negotiator Mohamed Yehia Dicko on Thursday to discuss efforts to secure the unconditional release of Van Deventer.

“Mohamed Yehia Dicko has returned from Mali where he has had fruitful engagements with the intermediaries. We've had engagements with the captors and the feedback is positive, and they are opening the door to further dialogue.

It is very difficult to say right now, if we are going to be successful
Dr Imtiaz Sooliman, director of Gift of the Givers

“He has returned to South Africa to consult and discuss the matter because certain sensitive information cannot be passed on telephonically.”

After the meeting, Dicko will return to Mali for further negotiations and “hopefully a positive outcome”.

Sooliman told TimesLIVE: “It is very difficult to say right now if we are going to be successful, but we are continuing all efforts, making use of all networks and all arrangements to try to achieve success in getting Gerco van Deventer out alive, unharmed, unconditionally and paying no ransom money.”

A jihadist group affiliated to Al-Qaeda brought Van Deventer from Libya, where he was kidnapped, to Mali and has been holding him for ransom, but the family have no money to pay and the South African government does not pay ransom. 

The captors sent a video to the Gift of the Givers in January and another in March, which led to renewed attempts during the month of Ramadan to secure Van Deventer’s release after five years and six months in captivity.

From 2020 to 2022 the family heard almost nothing about Van Deventer, now the only known South African hostage held anywhere in the world. 

In response to the Gift of the Giver’s renewed efforts to secure her husband’s release, Shereen van Deventer said: “I am excited that negotiations are going well and very thankful that Gift of the Givers are handling the negotiations. I have confidence in their expertise in these situations.

“It has been difficult but we cope,” she said.


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