'We're hiding from the security police': petrified SA family trapped in Oman

By Pieter van Zyl
04 March 2016

He wanted to provide a better life for his family and preach the Gospel in the Middle East, but now Nico Liebenberg, his wife Corné and their 14-year-old son, Jacques-Franc are fugitives in Oman.

He wanted to provide a better life for his family and preach the Gospel in the Middle East, but now Nico Liebenberg (54), his wife Corné (45) and their son, Jacques-Franc (14), are fugitives in Oman.

“We don’t have the money to come back; we’re stranded here,” Nico says from Oman.

He is without a job and because it’s a prerequisite for a visa he and his family are without visas and therefore in the country illegally.

They’ve lived in Oman for four years and Nico had had three jobs. His first employer failed to pay his salary for a year. “The high court ordered that he pay me my money and serve six years in jail but he fled and the police are doing nothing to arrest him.”

After that Nico helped a man open a restaurant. “But after a while the man got tired of the restaurant, cancelled the contracts and never paid me,” he says.

Nico did odd jobs for his third employer but wasn’t paid. “He just says he’s waiting for the people to pay up on the invoice.”

Before going to Oman Nico worked as an engineer in Iran – until the political conflict made it impossible to obtain a visa. “I earned a good salary there. Since then we lived on my savings but that dried up two years ago.”

The family is now living on alms thanks to the goodness of the people they met there.

“We’re not aware of other South Africans in the same position; they were warned at schools to have no contact with us because we’re doing missionary work and are on the security police’s watch list,” Nico says.

“Now we’re hiding in a remote area in two rooms with a bathroom and a lean-to.”

Pastor Elsabé van Niekerk of the Herlewingslig Centre in Zandfontein, Pretoria, is raising money to help the Liebenberg family return to South Africa.

She’s afraid they’ll end up in jail or be murdered. “We want to prevent young South Africans from going there and having the same thing happen to them,” she says.

When YOU contacted the Omani embassy, we were told the South African Embassy in Muscat had contact with the Liebenbergs in December 2014 “at which time certain consular assistance was rendered and advice given to them”.

Deputy Director: Consular Services Ben Malan advised the family to make contact with the embassy again, adding, “Only assistance of a non-financial nature can be rendered.”

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