Detained Gallants officials coming back home on Sunday

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) has brokered a settlement that will see the two Marumo Gallants officials Rufus Matsena and Tebogo Dhlomo return home after they were held captive in a Libya hotel over a payment dispute.

The duo will be leaving Libya on Sunday morning. They have been in Libya since March 19 for the Gallants’ Caf Confederation Cup match against Al Akhdar. They were held at the Al Fakhama Hotel Suites in Benghazi, Libya by the hotel owner Dr Ali Al-Zargha, who claimed that Gallants owe him $34 000 (about R700 000) for assisting the club during its stay.
Gallants’ boss Abram Sello has been disputing the amount from day one and said that the figure has been inflated to unacceptable levels.

There was a huge outcry from South Africans who were angry that the officials were held at ransom and against their will. Dirco and South Africa’s ambassador to Tunisia Siphosezwe Masango have been fighting and engaging the hotel owner and their Libyan counterparts to have the officials released.

Dirco chaired a mediation on Thursday, which was attended by Masango, Safa officials, Sello, Matsena and Dhlomo. The club has already paid $17k, ( which is 50% of the amount) on Thursday just to secure the release of the two. The rest of the money, as agreed, will be paid within one week.

Tweeted Dirco’s spokesperson Clayson Monyela on Saturday: “@DIRCO_ZA brokered a settlement in a meeting attended by Amb of Libya to SA, SA Amb to Tunisia, Safa & the chair of Marumo G. The two officials “held” in Libya are coming home tomorrow. Tickets & all sorted.”

Gallants released a statement confirming the return of the two officials. “Two Marumo Gallants F.C. staff members (Rufus Matsena and Tebogo Amos Dhlomo) who were detained in Libya following the team’s CAF Confederation Cup match against Libya’s Al Akhdar on 19 March 2023 are finally set to return home. This comes after a mediation meeting held this Thursday with relevant officials and representatives from various organisations.

“Club management has confirmed that the travel documents for the two employees have been returned, and that both Matsena and Dhlomo are ready for their much-awaited return to their country and families. They will be landing in Johannesburg over the course of the current long weekend,” reads the statement.

Chairman Sello said: “We are immensely relieved that our staff will be returning home safely. They are anxious to get back to their families and their lives here in South Africa. We would like to thank all parties that assisted in us getting to this point.” An official press briefing will be held early in the coming week. Venue and schedule to follow shortly.”

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