Jubilant ex radio jockey will give best friend Stephen McGowan "the biggest hug"
When Ian Fraser meets his best friend Stephen McGowan‚ who had been had been held hostage by Islamist militants in Mali since 2011‚ he will give him the “biggest hug” and tell him he loves him.
“I can’t wait to give him the biggest hug and tell him we’ve missed him… I will tell him how much I love him‚” said the former 5FM disc jockey.
He said he and McGowan had been friends since 1989.
“He and I shared a lot. I was his best man at his wedding. He was the best man at my wedding. We went on holidays together.
“After six years of not seeing each other‚ I guess we’ll pick up from where we left off‚" he said‚ chuckling. Fraser said McGowan’s absence had left a void among his friends‚ and they would remember him on his birthday and when they went on holidays.
“It was difficult when we got together because there was always one empty seat. That was a reminder that we needed to do something [about his return].
“We would raise a toast to him on his birthday and talk about him.”
He said the news of McGowan’s release was “exciting”.
“It’s an absolute relief. There’s a bitter sweet taste to this. It’s sad that he missed saying goodbye to his mother‚’’ Fraser said.
Beverly‚ McGowan’s mother‚ died in May 2017 after a long illness.
Fraser said McGowan’s friends had spent Thursday morning “sobbing” after hearing the news of his release.
International affairs minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane announced McGowan’s release to the South African public on Thursday morning.
Gift of the Givers‚ a South African-based organisation‚ which had been negotiating his release‚ described his freedom as a “great moment” and a “gift”.
In May‚ McGowan’s family sent a message of hope to mark 2‚000 days since McGowan and Swede Johan Gustafsson were captured by an al-Qaeda linked organisation called AQIM.
In a statement issued on Thursday‚ the SA government said: “We are happy to announce that finally these efforts have culminated in Mr McGown’s release on 29 July 2017. We would like to warmly welcome him back home and wish him good health and good fortune in his life as a free man.
"It is with sadness though‚ that his dear mother‚ Beverly passed on in May 2017 without seeing her son again. The government extends‚ its deepest condolences to Stephen and his family. May her soul rest in eternal peace.
“The South African government would like to convey its deepest gratitude to all role players such as the government of Mali‚ NGOs and individuals for their efforts that eventually secured Mr McGown’s release.
“We call on all South African’s to continue to support him whilst allowing him the space and time he needs to adjust to his environment after years of incarceration.”