Release of SA men a 'cautionary tale'

2010-12-21 12:05

Johannesburg - The release of two South African media workers who were detained in Somaliland has been described by a specialist on the region Iqbal Jhazbhay as a "cautionary tale".

The two SA journalists were detained in Somaliland after authorities found military equipment on their plane.

According to Jhazbhay, who helped the South African authorities facilitate contacts, the two were in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people without knowing it”.

"It is a serious lesson for people not to board a plane when you don't know what is on there," said Jhazbhay, a professor in the Religious Studies and Arabic Studies department of Unisa and author of "Somaliland: An African Struggle for Nationhood and International Recognition".

He said that in addition, the pilot knew little of the regional dynamics.

"He didn't know the political dynamics, and didn't know that Somaliland doesn't have healthy relations with neighbouring Puntland.

"I was totally amazed by the pilot - he thought he had got his clearance for Somalia," he said, explaining that the situations in the regions of Somaliland, Puntland and southern Somalia were very different. The area of Somaliland had held a democratic election in June and was peaceful and stable, he said. Puntland was more of a "federal state" and in southern Somalia there was broad uncertainty and "not much of a government".

Consular assistance

He explained that the two, who are according to the Cape Times a cameraman and a sound man, had been contracted by a company called Moonlighting Films to work in neighbouring Puntland.

The SA international relations spokesperson Clayson Monyela  confirmed on Tuesday that the two had been released.

"The department has been aware of this matter regarding these two South Africans. We have been providing consular assistance to them and they have now been released," he said.

Christopher Everson and Anton van der Merwe were detained after the plane they were travelling in landed in Somaliland on December 10 while they were on their way to do film work in neighbouring Puntland.

A producer already in Puntland had made their travel arrangements. They were to travel on a Russian Antanov going there for security company Saracen International, which is believed to be contracted to protect oil drilling interests in Puntland.

Jhazbhay acknowledged that there was a theory that Saracen was doing military training, but he felt that it was more plausible that their job was to protect the drilling.

Further investigation

After boarding in Uganda and heading for region, the pilot had intended to refuel in Ethiopia's Addis Ababa.

But, apparently because the process is slow at that airport, he decided to press on to Somaliland and refuel there.

Jhazbhay said that when the pilot stated that his destination was Puntland, which he describes as similar to a federal state, the authorities pricked up their ears and searched the plane, finding 583kg of military style uniforms from Cape Town.

There is a UN embargo on taking military equipment to Somalia and this includes military uniforms, so all eight were detained for further investigation.

After verification, the Somaliland authorities decided to release the two South Africans but the last word was that the six Russians would face charges of importing non-lethal military contraband.

He said the two were lucky they were detained in Somaliland.

Because of the relative stability there the process was quick.

"If it had been elsewhere it would have taken much longer."

Read more on:    somaliland  |  sa

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


China's air pollution at doomsday levels

China has long been struggling with air pollution issues but just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse – it has.



Moving short film on ivory trade
10 Tips for Greener Shopping
How safe are your baby products?
5 maps that will change the way you see the world

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts

The pace may be slow today and you may struggle to get things off the ground level, but it is important to focus on the more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.