3 August 2017

South Africa: Stephen McGown a Free Man

Photo: Gift of the Givers Foundation
Screenshot of a video released in December 2015 delivering proof of life for South African citizen Stephen McGowan. McGowan was abducted by al-Qaeda operatives in Mali during November 2011.

South African national, Stephen McGown, who was kidnapped by Islamist militants in Mali has been released, government announced on Thursday.

McGown was kidnapped in November 2011 while touring in Timbuktu together with Swedish national Johan Gustaffsson - who was freed earlier this year.

The South African government together with humanitarian aid organisations have been campaigning for McGown's release since his kidnapping.

"We are happy to announce that finally these efforts have culminated in McGown's release on 29 July 2017," International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana Mashabane told the media following a regular Cabinet meeting in Tshwane on Thursday.

She said the South African government did not pay a ransom for his release as the kidnappers had demanded.

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

She went on to welcome McGown back home. "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 calling on all South Africans to continue supporting him while allowing him the space and time he needs to adjust again.

McGown's release is bitter sweet as he returns to the news that his mother, Beverly, passed away in May 2017.

The Minister conveyed her condolences before thanking all the role players who ensured McGown's release.

"The South African government would like to convey its deepest gratitude to all the role players such as the government of Mali, NGOs and individuals for their efforts that eventually secured McGown's release."

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