'My heart is broken': Family shattered by Andre Hanekom's 'mysterious' death in Mozambique

23 January 2019 - 15:07 By Nico Gous
Francis Hanekom is heartbroken by her husband Andre's death in Mozambique.
Francis Hanekom is heartbroken by her husband Andre's death in Mozambique.
Image: Francis Hanekom/Facebook

Francis Hanekom, the wife of SA maritime businessman André Hanekom, who has died in Mozambique, is “heartbroken”.

"Today we have learned that he will never again have a birthday. My heart is broken. My beautiful husband is gone," she posted on their daughter Amanda's Facebook wall.

Amanda shared a birthday message for her imprisoned father on January 21 on his 62nd birthday, wishing him "freedom, health, happiness and time with his family again".

A former ICU nurse in SA, Francis told TimesLIVE on Wednesday that André was admitted to the intensive care unit of a hospital in Pemba on Saturday. She alleges he showed signs of poisoning.

“He was recovering but he could not speak. Yesterday he was fully conscious. He helped them (the staff) move him in his bed and 4.30 this morning he was dead,” Francis said.

Their daughter wrote on Facebook: “My dad died early this morning in mysterious circumstances in the hospital in Pemba. His court case was going to be next week and he would have won, we have mountains of proof of his innocence.”

My dad died early this morning in mysterious circumstances in the hospital in Pemba. His court case was going to be next...

Posted by Amanda Hanekom on Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Francis said friends informed her about her husband's sudden death — not the police or the hospital.

“They phoned me at 9," she said, adding that she had scheduled a 10am appointment with the doctor.

Francis had been campaigning for André's release since he was arrested in August, on what she said were trumped-up terrorism charges.

“It’s like you’re going to town, the next moment someone grabs you and the next thing you hear you’re financing terrorism. That is what happened to us. We are normal people,” Francis said on Wednesday.

On Sunday, international relations minister Lindiwe Sisulu said SA's ambassador in Mozambique had “managed to locate Mr Hanekom and has communicated both with the family and ourselves where he’s being held”.  The SA government promised to "give all the necessary support" to Hanekom.

Hanekom owned a slipway and maritime logistics company in Mozambique's  gas-rich northern region of Cabo Delgado. He was arrested after gunmen wearing camouflage uniforms and balaclavas tried to drive him off the road.

The men, one of whom shot him in the arm and stomach, turned out to be police officers.

The Sunday Times reported Hanekom was briefly admitted to hospital.

Officers initially claimed they were holding him for his own safety after rescuing him from kidnappers linked to Ahlu Sunna Waljama'a, a group that allegedly wants Cabo Delgado as a separatist state.

However, in October he appeared in court, with authorities claiming Hanekom — fondly known as Baba Mzungu (white father) among locals — was linked to the organisation. They said they had confiscated weapons and logistical supplies from his home destined for the organisation, the newspaper said.

Terrorism‚ Research and Analysis Consortium Africa director Jasmine Opperman tweeted: “And again I say 'no', he was not involved in financing Shabaab cells.”

Francis Hanekom said André did not follow current affairs.

“We have been here for 26 years. André could have gotten himself a Mozambican passport years ago ... If he was interested in local politics then he would have gotten a Mozambican passport a long time ago so that he could be active in local politics. He was not interested in it.”

Francis described him as a “sweet boy”.

“He always used to say that he did not even have a speeding ticket against his name in South Africa.”

Francis said they will repatriate André to SA for his funeral.

An outdoorsman who enjoyed fishing and hunting, André was also characterised by his widow as a “straight forward” yet “fair” person.

“He was a very practical person. He could always make a plan. In the middle of the bush, if anything went wrong, he could make a plan.”

The department of international relations and cooperation (Dirco) confirmed Hanekom’s death.

Dirco spokesperson Ndivhuwo Mabaya said as Hanekom had been was imprisoned by Mozambican authorities, South African authorities did not yet know the cause of his death.

“The high commissioner still needs to get information from authorities from Mozambique about how he died," Mabaya said.

He said that Sisulu had asked Mpahlwa to compile the report on Hanekom's death. - Additional reporting by Ernest Mabuza