29 April 2012

South Africa: Mechem Working to Release Captured Man

Photo: Arne Doornebal/ RNW
Armies of Sudan.

Johannesburg — Denel Mechem on Sunday said it was working closely with international and Sudanese authorities to ensure the safe release of two of its employees.

The men, who's caputure was first reported on Saturday, were in Sudan participating in a United Nations (UN) humanitarian operation, Denel Mechem CEO Ashley Williams said.

"They have full diplomatic immunity because of the work they do for the UN peacekeeping forces," said Williams in a statement.

"We expect them to be released at the earliest possible time and we are working with the United Nations and through the South African diplomatic representatives in both countries to ensure that they are not harmed in any way."

Williams said he has received confirmation from the UN that the two employees -- a South African and South Sudanese -- were unharmed, but held in custody in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.

Williams said he was in regular contact with the family of the South African man, Thabo Siave, to keep them informed about diplomatic initiatives to ensure their release.

Southern Sudanese officials have contacted the family of the local resident who have been working with Mechem for the past seven years.

The two Mechem employees, together with British and Norwegian UN workers were travelling back to Bentui in a Mechem-designed Casspir, mine-protected vehicle, when they were captured by North Sudanese soldiers.

Williams said the two were part of a UN task team responsible for the lifting of landmines and the destruction of unexploded remnants of the recent civil war between the two countries.

He denied the employees were either military advisers or participated in any offensive operations.

"We have been removing landmines in southern Sudan since February 2004.

Prior to the elections earlier this year we have helped to lift more than 3,300 explosive devices and cleared more than 9 000 kilometres of road to ensure the safety of residents in the area."

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