South Africa: Ebrahim Going to Yemen for Korkie Talks

Photo: SAPA
Yolande, former hostage and wife of Pierre Korkie who is still being held in Yemen, speaks during a news conference in Johannesburg.

Johannesburg — International Relations Deputy Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim will travel to Yemen to consult with its government and other interested parties on the kidnapping of South African Pierre Korkie, his department said on Friday.

Spokesman Nelson Kgwete said Ebrahim was scheduled to leave for Yemen on Saturday.

Korkie's kidnappers have given his family until Friday to pay a ransom of US3 million (about R32.5m) in exchange for his safe return.

"It is hoped that the visit by deputy minister Ebrahim to Yemen will result in Mr Korkie being released unharmed and as soon as possible," Kgwete said in a statement.

"The South African government takes interest in the well-being and security of its citizens, including when they are in distress or danger in foreign countries," he said.

Korkie and his wife Yolande were kidnapped by Al-Qaeda militants in Taiz, Yemen, in May. She was released and returned to South Africa on Monday.

The disaster relief organisation, Gift of the Givers' Foundation, which helped negotiate Yolande Korkie's release, is still negotiating with the kidnappers for her husband's freedom.

Foundation head Imtiaz Sooliman said on Thursday it had told Al-Qaeda that the ransom was too high, and the eight days given to raise the money was not enough time.

The foundation's office manager in Yemen, Anas al-Hamati, said the kidnappers had threatened to kill Korkie if they did not receive the payout.

Kgwete said the government would not be involved in the ransom talks.

"Our policy is well-known to the public that government does not negotiate or pay ransom to kidnappers," he said.

"We are involved in efforts to free him through diplomatic channels."

He admitted that there had not been much progress since Yolande Korkie's release.

Speaking at a media briefing in Johannesburg on Thursday, a frail Korkie begged Al-Qaeda to release her husband.

"Al-Qaeda, I ask to address you. Thank you for releasing me and giving me back to our children, treating us with kindness and respect, and bringing my husband medicine... I'm asking you to release my husband," she said.

"We are asking you to show mercy, to please show tolerance."

The couple have been married for 20 years. At the time of the kidnapping, Pierre Korkie was a teacher in Yemen, while his wife did relief work in hospitals.

It was believed that Al-Qaeda kidnapped the couple thinking they were US citizens.

Sooliman could not be reached for comment on Friday.

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