Statement by the Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Mr Ebrahim Ebrahim, on his Working Visit to the Yemeni Republic, 23 January 2014, OR Tambo Building, Pretoria
From 19-21 January 2014, we undertook a Working Visit to Sana’a, Yemen, to take up the case of Mr Pierre Korkie, a South African citizen kidnapped nine months ago in the city of Taiz.
As you know, Mr Korkie was kidnapped together with his wife, Yolande, whilst in Yemen in May 2013. The kidnappers released Yolande on 10 January 2014, and Pierre remains in captivity.
Relations between South Africa and Yemen are cordial, and the two countries share membership of the Indian Ocean Rim Association and the Non-Alignment Movement (NAM) etc.
While in Yemen, we held a wide range of meetings, including with representatives of the Yemeni Security Services, the Deputy Foreign Minister, Dr Ali Muthana Hassan, the Foreign Minister, Dr Abu Bakr Al-Qirbi, the Minister of the Interior, Mr Abdul Qader Qahtari, as well as the Prime Minister, Mr Mohammed Basindwah. On 21 January, we held consultations with the President of Yemen, H.E. Abdel-Rabbuh Mansour Hadi.
The South African delegation received a comprehensive briefing detailing all the latest information and developments related to the kidnapping.
Kidnappings are sadly not uncommon in Yemen. Currently, eight other foreign hostages are also being held in areas of the country that are not under government control.
The Yemeni authorities, who have considerable experience in dealing with situations of this type, emphasised that the motive for the kidnapping was not political.
It was confirmed that South Africans are not one of the specific nationalities that are actively targeted and that this was in fact a case of mistaken identity.
We stressed the pressing urgency of the case, in view of the deteriorating health of Mr Korkie. We used our engagements to seek advice and look into what Yemen and South Africa could do together to secure the speedy release of Mr Korkie.
We reiterated that the South African Government does not pay ransom under any circumstances.
The Yemeni authorities underscored their goodwill towards South Africa and committed to do everything possible to work towards Mr Korkie’s safe release. It was agreed that South Africa and Yemen would continue to explore options that might hopefully result in the early release of Mr Korkie unharmed.
During our stay in Sana’a, I made a televised plea to the kidnappers to show mercy to Mr Pierre Korkie. In that plea, I said, amongst other things, that:
“Pierre Korkie is gravely ill and desperately needs medical attention. His life is in danger. Islam enjoins us to show mercy and forbids us from harming the sick, even in war. I beg those who are holding him to release him without delay”
I added that:
“South Africa is a developing country and the Korkies are not a rich family. I appeal to you to cooperate with all initiatives so that Pierre Korkie can come home for the treatment he needs to save his life and be reunited with his family.”
The South African Government has been working with various role players since the kidnapping of the Korkies in mid-2013. Our ambassador to Saudi Arabia, who is also accredited to Yemen, has made several trips to Yemen and continues to work closely with Yemeni authorities on this matter.
We thank the Government of Yemen for their willingness to engage and assist. We will continue to liaise closely with the Yemeni Government and the other role players on this matter.
ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION
OR Tambo Building