Cape Town – Humanitarian aid organisation Gift of the Givers has released a “proof of life” video in which South African paramedic Gerco van Deventer, who has been held captive in Mali for over five years, is seen pleading for help.
The video, recorded on May 26, 2023, and released on Sunday, shows Van Deventer appealing for urgent assistance in securing his release and expressing concern for his family’s well-being.
“Good day. Today is the 26th of May 2023. My name Gert Jacobus (Gerco) van Deventer. As far as I know, I am the only South African held hostage by JIM and held in the north of Mali.
“I am requesting urgent help and assistance to facilitate and activate any action that can lead to my release. I do not know of my family’s whereabouts and their well-being. I am requesting any assistance to facilitate help me, build a bridge to reach the outside world for me to gain what taken from me, freedom, and liberty,” says Van Deventer in a video.
— Dennis Delport (@Dennisdelport) May 28, 2023
The 47-year-old was kidnapped in Libya on 3 November 2017 on his way to a power plant construction site about 1 000km south of the capital Tripoli.
Three other Turkish engineers seized at the same time were freed seven months later, but Van Deventer remained in captivity and was moved to Mali.
Imtiaz Sooliman, head Gift of the Givers, which is also mediating for his release, said in March that a negotiator would be travelling to Mali “to appeal to the kidnappers”.
The charity helped in efforts to secure the 2017 release of another South African, Stephen McGown, held by al-Qaeda in Mali for nearly six years.
SABC reported on Sunday that Sooliman, states that their negotiator is currently in Mali, engaging with intermediaries to convince the captors to release Van Deventer unconditionally.
The upcoming week is seen as crucial in efforts to secure his freedom, he said.
Compiled by Betha Madhomu
Additional reporting by AFP