Gift of the Givers hoping Ramadaan would soften the hearts of Gerco van Deventer’s kidnappers

Director of Gift of the Givers Imtiaz Sooliman with hostage negotiator Mohamed Yehia Dicko. Picture: Supplied

Director of Gift of the Givers Imtiaz Sooliman with hostage negotiator Mohamed Yehia Dicko. Picture: Supplied

Published Apr 12, 2023


Durban - The Gift of the Givers is hoping that hostage negotiators would soften their hearts during the month of Ramadaan and release a South African man taken hostage in Mali.

Gerco van Deventer, 47, was kidnapped on November 3, 2017 while working as a paramedic in Awbari, Libya.

Eight months later he was captured by al-Qaeda terrorists in Mali and a US$3 million (R32m) demand was made for his release.

Gerco van Deventer. Picture: Facebook

Van Deventer, who is from Swellendam in the Western Cape, had been employed at a Turkish company at the time of the kidnapping.

According to director of Gift of the Givers, Imtiaz Sooliman, three other employees were also kidnapped but were released after the company allegedly paid a ransom for them.

A video of Van Deventer was released by his captors in January this year.

Sooliman is hoping that the kidnappers have mercy during the month of fasting.

“When a video is released it shows that they want to negotiate,” he said.

Sooliman said the family did not have the money to pay for the ransom which was now reduced to US$500 000.

“As an organisation, we don’t pay ransom, the family does not have the money and the government will not assist.

“We are requesting his release ‘Fie Sabee lilah’, which means release him for the sake of the Almighty,” said Sooliman.

“The reason Gerco went to work far away from his family was because he needed the money,” Sooliman said.

Mohamed Yehia Dicko, a volunteer at Gift of the Givers, is negotiating with several intermediaries.

“There are no time frames, but we are hopeful that something positive is going to come out of this. We want him out free and reunited with his family,” said Sooliman.

He said a video of Van Deventer’s wife and son pleading for his safe release has been passed on to the intermediaries.

“We are not sure if it has reached the captors,” he said.

Sooliman said Dicko has been a volunteer at Gift of the Givers since June 2015.

“After a call on mainstream media for any person of Mali origin to act as a negotiator in a hostage situation to come forward, Yehia walked into our Johannesburg offices,” he said.

This was during the hostage negotiations of Steven McGown, a South African taken hostage in Mali in 2011 and released in 2017.

McGown was travelling through Mali on a trans-Africa journey when he was one of three tourists abducted by gunmen from a restaurant in Timbuktu.

Van Deventer’s wife Shereen told Cape Argus it has been challenging for the family, especially their kids.

“It becomes very difficult when they see other kids with their fathers or hear them talk about things other kids do with their fathers. Those moments are the hardest for them, as only a father can fill that role,” she said.