PMB man and three other South Africans still stranded in Mali

2012-03-24 00:00

AT least four South Africans, including a Pietermaritzburg electrician, are stranded in Mali after this week’s coup led to border closures and the grounding of international flights.

Three are South African officials who were attending an African Union Peace and Security Council meeting in Mali.

They were unable to travel back after their plane was grounded.

Another stranded South African, is Warren Blomeyer, who was returning home after completing a project in Mali, where he has been since October.

He is now holed up at the Olympe International Hotel in Mali’s capital, Bamako.

Speaking to The Witness from Mali yesterday, he said: “I was already at the airport on Tuesday and had checked in my entire luggage, when I was told that I would not be flying because all the planes had been grounded.”

“On Wednesday, the gunfire went on all night and on Thursday, we experienced the gunfire until about 10 pm,” Blomeyer added.

He described the situation as “quite nerve-wracking”.

“A group of soldiers arrived yesterday and rounded up the guests at the hotel.

“They were allegedly trying to find those people employed by the government as they were reportedly trying to find the president.”

Blomeyer said foreigners were not being intimidated or abused.

“Although it is nerve-wracking, the hotel we are in is still fully operational and providing all the necessary services,” he added.

Blomeyer, said the coup would not deter him from returning to Mali.

“This [coup] will not deter me from coming back to work here as I found the people to be friendly and nice.”

Blomeyer’s father, Ian, said his family was nervous about the situation and prayed for his safe return.

“We are big Christians and we are praying for him to come back home.”

The situation was taking its toll, especially on Blomeyer’s sister, Rochelle, who is very close to him.

A spokesperson for the department of international relations and co-operation, Nelson Kgwete, said they were unaware that South African civilians were stranded in Mali.

Kgwete said: “We know of South African embassy workers who are supposed to be there and three officials who were attending an AU meeting but were stranded after the flights were cancelled.”

Meanwhile, the AU yesterday suspended Mali from the organisation.

Speaking to the BBC, the coup’s leader, Captain Amadou Sanogo, said he had no intention of staying in power.

He claimed he would stand down after making sure the army — which is fighting ethnic-Tuareg rebels in the north — was able to secure the country.

Sanogo also said former leaders would be transferred to the justice system.

President Amadou Toumani Toure is not believed to be in the custody of the mutineers, the BBC said.

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