Pretoria steps up efforts to free kidnapped SA couple in Yemen

2013-06-08 09:34

Government has taken steps in a bid to have a kidnapped South African couple freed in Yemen, International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane has said.

Official channels were being followed to avoid worsening the situation for Pierre and Yolande Korkie, she told reporters in Pretoria yesterday.

“What is very critical for us is that we remain in exchange of information with the government there and the family in South Africa,” she said.

“We’ve gone through similar challenges in the past, we will use the same methodologies. The matter is very sensitive and you don’t go there and become overzealous, endangering the lives of people that you are trying to rescue.”

Gunmen kidnapped the couple from the central Yemeni city of Taiz last month. Reports emerged this week indicating that al-Qaeda militants were holding the pair.

South African diplomats then headed to Yemen to try to secure their release. No update was given on their progress.

The couple, initially thought to be tourists, were involved in the development of a hotel in the city of Taiz, South African authorities said last month.

Turning to the recent spate of xenophobic violence in different parts of South Africa, Nkoana-Mashabane said the attacks were shocking.

“In terms of our Constitution, South Africa belongs to all who live in it. We are therefore appalled and deeply saddened by the recent acts of violence against Somalis and other foreign nationals,” she said.

“The looting, displacement and killing of foreign nationals should not be viewed as xenophobic attacks, but as opportunistic acts that have the potential to undermine the unity and cohesiveness of our communities.”

She said that during the fifth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (Ticad V) summit in Japan, the South African delegation, led by President Jacob Zuma, had conveyed condolences and regrets to Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.

The Somali government this week called on South Africa to protect Somali nationals living in the country, after the wave of attacks on foreigners.

Residents in a township near Joburg rioted against the Somali community last week, while tensions also flared in Port Elizabeth.

Somali Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon wrote an open letter to Zuma, appealing for an intervention to end the “unnecessary and unfortunate violence against Somali business communities”.

Scores of people were arrested following the attacks, which were reminiscent of the wave of xenophobic violence that left at least 60 foreigners dead in 2008.

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