SA ambassador in a bid to free kidnapped Gallants officials

The South African government, via the SA ambassador to Tunisia, Siphosezwe Masango, are intervening in the release of the two Marumo Gallants officials who are being held in a Benghazi hotel in Libya after allegations that their club left them with an unpaid bill of about R700 000.

South Africa closed its embassy in Libya in 2012 after the Arab Spring Uprisings of 2011, which toppled Muammar Gaddafi. The embassy was moved to neighbouring Tunisia. Masango is also reports on Libya and has told Sunday World that they are applying diplomatic pressure to secure the release of the two Gallants employees who are being held captive at the Al Fakhama hotel suite in Libya.

Gallants media officer Rufus Matsena and physio Dina Dlomo are still in Libya, 13 days after the club’s CAF Confederation Cup match where the South Africans were thumped 4-1 by Al Akhdar on March 19.

The hotel owner claims that Gallants owe him about R700 000 after they assisted the SA team during their stay.

“I have had discussions with the Libyan chargé d’affaires (head of a diplomatic mission) to Tunisia,” said Masango from Tunis on Friday.

“It’s just that Libya is a Muslim country and on Friday everyone is not working and there was not much movement.

“They told me the ministry of foreign affairs in Libya called the hotel owner Dr Ali Al-Zargha and gave him the instruction to release the two. The hotel owner must be arrested for kidnapping or holding people hostage,” he added.

“Our people cannot be held hostage because this is breaking international laws. I cannot go to Libya and use force because I am deployed in Tunisia. I just report on Libya.

“We are trying to get the police in Libya to go and fetch the two South Africans. Whether they owe or not, the matter must be settled legally. You cannot hold people to ransom.

“Rufus and Dhlomo work for the club. They do not owe the hotel in their personal capacity. The minister must issue an instruction to the police in Benghazi to fetch them and take them to the airport,” added Masango.

“I have also spoken to Gallants owner Abram Sello, who said that he will buy the tickets for the two when they are released from the hotel.

“Another challenge is the language barrier. Libya chargé d’affaires to Tunisia Mustafa Mohammed does not speak English and we needed to have an interpreter, which has prolonged things. But we are intervening, and we are communicating with the two South Africans and their club, and hope to have the matter resolved quickly so that they can go home.”

Yesterday, Masango said there were no new developments. “Kindly note that Fridays and Saturdays is weekend in Libya. Government offices are closed for business. The offices will open today (Sunday).”

Efforts to reach Marumo Gallants owner Sello and the South African Football Association CEO Tebogo Motlanthe were not successful as their phones rang unanswered.

Matsena confirmed he was still in Libya but referred all enquiries to Masango.

Follow @SundayWorldZA on Twitter and @sundayworldza on Instagram, or like our Facebook Page, Sunday World, by clicking here for the latest breaking news in South Africa.

Latest News