Gerco Van Deventer, a 43-year-old father of three, was captured a few days after he arrived in Libya to work on a one-month contract. The paramedic from Swellendam in the Western Cape had been out of a job and was given an opportunity to work abroad by a friend.
On November 3, 2017, Van Deventer was abducted along with three Turkish men in southern Libya.
Van Deventer’s wife, Shereen, told News24 that he had flown to Libya at the end of October 2017 for contract work as a paramedic. “He was there for a number of days, waiting to fly out to Awbari Power Station… after which I found out that he was kidnapped.”
In a video released in January this year, a worn-out Van Deventer pleads for his release, saying: “I’ve got a lot of problems. [My] blood sugar, I cannot control it. I’ve got a problem with my heart… there’s blood in my urine, I desperately need to see a doctor at a hospital. I need to be released as soon as possible… please, pay the money and let me be released.
“Let me go home to my family in South Africa. It’s been a long time. I haven’t seen or spoken to my children for all this time, I haven’t spoken to my wife…”
Van Deventer then breaks out into tears. “I just need to go home,” he says. “Please, please, please…” he pleads.
“It is, and continues to be, an extremely stressful and uncertain time for us as a family. We eagerly await his earliest release,” Shereen says.
“I know it is difficult for Gerco to find himself in a position where he cannot provide for his family, as well as struggling with his health. This remains a constant concern to us as a family.
“The last communication we received was the video posted on Facebook and, according to that, it is not going well with him. It seems that his health is deteriorating and he begs to be able to come home to his family.”
Humanitarian organisation Gift of the Givers has been involved in negotiating Van Deventer’s release since the beginning of this year.
According to its founder and director, Dr Imtiaz Sooliman, his captors are an Islamic splinter group associated with al-Qaeda, one of many operating all over the world.
A similar group had held South African Christo Bothma, 54, hostage in Burkina Faso. On July 30, News24 reported that Bothma is believed to have died in custody.
“They want $1.5m (R22.9m) for [Van Deventer’s] release. His family, however, does not have the means to pay that kind of money,” Sooliman told News24 earlier.
“We made it clear to the captors that there is no funding available to pay ransom for [Van Deventer]. The reason he was in Libya, in the first place, was to earn a decent income.
“No company will pay a ransom, no government will pay a ransom and his family certainly doesn’t have the means. This has been made very clear to them. It is now a matter of waiting. Unfortunately, when you don’t have ransom to pay, the ‘waiting’ can run into years.”
According to Sooliman’s information, Van Deventer is still alive.
“This is very tough for the family. His wife is quite strong, I speak to her very often.”
Shereen says the family doesn’t have much to offer. “To be honest, I am not sure what [the captors’] expectations are.
“We do not know how to express this more clearly. We need Gerco here with us. He is a father, a husband, a son and a brother. He is a man that takes his responsibilities to his family very seriously. DM
"The soul is known by its acts" ~ Thomas Aquinas