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Fri Nov 28 12:42:46 SAST 2014

SA seems to have turned blind eye to pirates' captives

The Editor, The Times Newspaper | 24 February, 2012 00:43

The Times Editorial: What is the government doing to free two South African citizens who were kidnapped by Somali pirates 16 months ago?

The answer, sadly, seems to be not very much. This was evident from the replies, by our navy chief and international relations spokesman, to journalists' questions about the fate of Durban yachting couple Bruno Pelizzari and Deborah Calitz.

SA Navy Vice-Admiral Refiloe Mudimu, who, somewhat ironically, was attending a regional summit on coastal security, said he was aware they had been kidnapped, but that the navy could not act without the authority of the government. "Maybe the issue has not reached the stage where force needs to be applied," he said.

One wonders when such a time might arise considering that Pelizzari and Calitz were kidnapped off Tanzania in October 2010 and then - according to charity organisation Gift of the Givers, which is trying to secure their release - sold on twice after their initial captors' ransom demands were not met.

Clayson Monyela, who speaks for International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, trotted out the tired old line about how paying ransoms was not government policy, and that Gift of the Givers' information would need to be verified, presumably by the intelligence agencies.

But where have the intelligence agencies been all this time? Why is a charity organisation able to generate leads where the government seemingly cannot?

And even if the information about the couple's whereabouts were verified, do we have the political will, not to mention the capability - the R43-billion arms deal notwithstanding - to carry out a rescue attempt?

If a rescue is not feasible militarily or politically (although pirates have no standing in international law and their hiding places fall within the vast swathes of Somalia that have no government) then what is South Africa's plan?

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