Calitz: We felt good vibes from SA

2012-06-27 22:37
Bruno Pelizzari and Debbie Calitz in Johannesburg. (Werner Beukes, Sapa)

Bruno Pelizzari and Debbie Calitz in Johannesburg. (Werner Beukes, Sapa)

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Johannesburg - A tearful Debbie Calitz said at her arrival along with her partner Bruno Pelizzari on Wednesday that something kept them strong during their 20 months in captivity in Somalia.

"We must have felt the vibrations of South African people there, because something kept us strong," a tearful Calitz told media, friends and family at the OR Tambo International Airport.

"I thought it was a guardian angel... I think it was all the people... Thank you South Africa, we love you."

The pair arrived from Rome.

They were kidnapped on a yacht off the south-eastern coast of Africa by Somali pirates in October 2010.

They were held hostage until their release on Thursday last week.

Somali officials said on Thursday last week that the two had been freed in an operation by security forces and the army from "al-Qaeda-affiliated" insurgents.

The South African government helped secure their freedom in a joint effort with Italy and Somalia.

Calitz said they were treated "like animals" and handcuffed 24 hours a day during their captivity. Baths were limited and they were fed a high starch diet of rice, bread and pasta.

"It was just horrible."

She said the first thing she would do when she got home was to sleep for a while.


Both became new grandparents during their captivity, with Calitz acquiring two new grandsons and Pelizzari one.

"We haven't met them yet. It's going to be great. We are home, we are safe. There's lots of reuniting to be done," Calitz said.

Pelizzari, who spoke with difficulty, said he was a new man.

"It would take me four lifetimes to repay everybody."

Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane welcomed the pair home, and jokingly asked if they had kissed the ground yet.

 She said it had been a very emotional and happy moment for two.

"You are home. Welcome home."

Nkoana-Mashabane thanked the South African, Somali and Italian governments for aiding in the couple's release.

"No one is going to take this freedom away from you."

She said the government would continue its efforts to bring back other South Africans held captive in other countries.

"We haven't given up."


Read more on:    deborah calitz  |  maite nkoana-mashabane  |  bruno pelizzari  |  somalia  |  sa  |  good news  |  pirates  |  east africa

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