'US forces not to blame for Korkie's death'

2014-12-10 11:53

The international relations and cooperation department is staying mum on whether South Africa and United States officials knew about a deal that had been struck to release South African hostage Pierre Korkie from his Yemen captors prior to attempts by US Special Forces to release an American hostage.

The botched rescue mission led to the deaths of Korkie and US photographer Luke Somers, who were killed last week by their captors.

International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane yesterday evaded questions and would not directly say whether her department was aware that South African-based relief mission Gift of the Givers had secured Korkie’s release, which was meant to take place a day later.

She said the two countries’ officials were sharing “sensitive” information on the botched release and would not blame the Americans for the death of Korkie because the US government was not aware that Korkie was the other hostage being held with Somers.

Nkoana-Mashabane added that South Africa worked with all parties, including Gift of the Givers, in securing the release of all hostages held by terrorists and in emergencies, adding that South Africa would never pay any ransom to secure the release of any hostage.

Nkoana-Mashabane said government officials had been in contact with Yemeni counterparts since Korkie’s wife, Yolande, was released in order to secure her husband’s release but would not say whether South Africa’s government was aware that Korkie’s release had been secured.

Nkoana-Mashabane also briefed the media regarding President Jacob Zuma’s trade trip to China last week which she described as “very successful” having secured 90% of the deals the South African government intended to clinch there, prior to their trip.

She said China had agreed to support South Africa in creating black industrialists among a slew of trade agreements that were signed.

China would also train 2 000 South Africans in critical skills that are required in the country’s economy.

One of the deals agreed to was to expedite market access negotiations for the export of South African fresh produce to China, including maize and fruit, said Nkoana-Mashabane.

“China will gradually increase the training opportunities for South Africa and will provide training for 2 000 South Africans from the year 2015 through to 2020. China committed to support South Africa’s industrialisation agenda by agreeing to assist in the development of a science and technology and industrial parks, as well as in key areas such as the ocean economy. In addition, Chinese companies would be encouraged to invest in Economic Zones, Industrial Parks and Science and Technology parks,” said Nkoana-Mashabane.

She declared that 2015 would be China’s year to display what it was capable of in South Africa in terms of trade and investment.

Nkoana-Mashabane also announced that during the China visit, the Tsinghua University conferred an honorary professorship on Zuma.

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