Johannesburg — South Africa thanked the Italian and Somalian authorities on Thursday for the safe return of a local couple held captive by pirates for 20 months.
"The couple was released unharmed and is receiving consular support from the South African mission to Somalia, which is based in Nairobi, Kenya," said international relations spokesman Nelson Kgwete.
"Arrangements are being made for the return of the couple to South Africa."
He said South Africa's ambassador to Somalia, Ndumiso Ntshinga, was in contact with the couple, Deborah Calitz and Bruno Pelizzari.
Somalian authorities had confirmed that they were in good health and eager to be reunited with their loved ones.
The two were kidnapped in October 2010 from a yacht off the south-eastern coast of Africa. Their pirate captors originally demanded a ransom of US10 million.
The Associated Press reported that the couple was among the longest-held hostages by pirates.
At a press conference in Somalia's presidential palace in Mogadishu, Calitz and Pelizzari smiled but appeared exhausted, AP said.
"We are very happy to get our freedom again," Calitz said.
"We are so happy today and to join our families again."
Somalia's defence minister Hussein Arab Isse credited Somali security forces with helping secure the couple's release, but he did not say whether the pair had been rescued. He also declined to say if a ransom was paid, said the association.