'Kidnapped' SA man in Black Beach jail

24 August 2014 - 02:01 By Bobby Jordan
Daniel Janse van Rensburg with wife Melanie. He is currently a prisoner in Equatorial Guinea.
Daniel Janse van Rensburg with wife Melanie. He is currently a prisoner in Equatorial Guinea.
Image: Supplied

It was meant to be the deal of a lifetime: an aviation contract worth millions with an influential Equatorial Guinea businessman, who also happened to be the president's son-in-law.

But Daniel Janse van Rensburg, 49, is now trapped in one of the world's worst prisons with a R1-million "ransom" on his head. The aviation consultant from Wilderness in the Western Cape has effectively been kidnapped, say his family.

Janse van Rensburg is being held in the notorious Black Beach prison despite South African diplomatic efforts to obtain his release.

It is understood that four South African officials travelled to the capital, Malabo, this month, but were not allowed to see him. His family have not heard from him in months and fear the worst.

"We are very worried," said his mother, Martha. "Daniel is our only child. We just want him home. His children need him and his wife [Melanie] needs him."

Melanie said: "Our whole life is falling apart from this situation and I'm at breaking point." The couple have two children.

Janse van Rensburg was contacted two years ago by Gabriel Bela Angabi, a powerful politician and businessman. Documents detailing their business dealings suggest they fell out over a R30-million contract to lease an aircraft from a Johannesburg company. Angabi summoned Janse van Rensburg to Malabo last year to resolve their differences, but the South African was promptly arrested. He has been in and out of jail ever since, unable to leave the country and denied contact with his family or diplomatic staff.

Angabi claims Janse van Rensburg owes him R1-million. But the South African says he has no way of raising the money while he is in jail and unable to finalise the aircraft deal.

In a letter sent in June to the South African embassy shortly before he was imprisoned, he said: "I was called to the house of Mr Angabi, where I was informed that he wants to cancel the contract and wanted all of his money back immediately ... there was no reasoning with him, he summoned the police and they arrested me."

Angabi allegedly warned that Janse van Rensburg "would not leave the country alive".

He sought refuge in the South African embassy and was later escorted to a flight bound for home, but was intercepted by the police. Despite not having been convicted of any crime, he spent two-and-a-half months in prison, where he fell ill. He was released into the care of South African diplomats pending negotiations for his release. However, the case against him appears to have reached a stalemate and he is back in jail.

In a letter sent to his South African business partner on July 3 - his last known communication - Janse van Rensburg described his ordeal in prison: "I lost more than 12kg, got both malaria and typhoid when I was there for the last time (for 'safe-keeping'). There was no medication and it was only by the grace of God that I was looked after by the other prisoners."

Janse van Rensburg was briefly detained on suspicion of involvement in a failed 2004 coup in Equatorial Guinea led by British mercenary Simon Mann, who also spent time in Black Beach prison. He was cleared of all charges and allowed to continue doing business in the country.

Victor Manuel Ele Ela, a secretary at the Equatorial Guinea embassy in Pretoria, denied this week that Janse van Rensburg was in jail. "He will be able to leave the country as soon as he rectifies the situation that he has created, as he promised to do," he said. "If he is not in South Africa by now, it is because he has systematically failed to keep his word."

The Department of International Relations did not reply to questions.

However, commenting on the matter in January, department spokesman Clayson Monyela said Pretoria had expressed its concern to the government of Equatorial Guinea.