Current Affairs

South African man held hostage by al-Qaeda since 2011, freed

Stephen McGowan, who was captured by al-Qaeda, finally returns home

Stephen McGowan, a South African who has been held hostage by Islamist militant group al-Qaeda in Mali since 2011 has finally been freed

The news of McGowan’s release has made international headlines. The South African was kidnapped from a hotel in Timbuktu along with two other foreign nationals in 2011. His release was announced by International affairs minister Maite Nkoana Mashabane on Thursday, at a media briefing in Pretoria.

The minister debunked rumours of a paid ransom; McGowan’s release follows efforts by NGO, Gift of the Givers, who along with the government negotiated his release. Leading up to his release, his captors sent out a video of McGowan and another hostage, in a bid to prove they were still alive.

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“We are happy to announce that finally these efforts have culminated in Mr McGowan’s release on 29 July 2017. We would like to warmly welcome him back home and wish him good health and good fortune in his life as a free man,” the minister said.

The minister went on to express remorse at the passing of McGowan’s mother who did not live to see the return of her son. “It is with sadness though, that his dear mother, Beverly passed on in May 2017 without seeing her son again.”

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McGowans father also shared words of thanks, “I’d like to thank President Zuma for everything they’ve done to bring back Stephen,” he said.

While the return of McGowan is being celebrated one can’t help but wonder how the 42 year-old will adjust to normal everyday life in 2017.

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Mashudu Malema