Family urges release of SA Somalia hostages


The families of two South Africans kidnapped off Tanzania by Somali pirates in October last year have again pleaded with those who hold them to release the couple as they cannot afford a ransom.

Debbi Calitz and Bruno Pelizzari were on their way to South Africa from Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, when their yacht was attacked by pirates, who have since demanded US$10 million for their release. Skipper Peter Eldridge was able to escape after refusing to leave the yacht, but the pirates forced Pelizzari and Calitz off the vessel.

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) says government will not pay the money and the family says they cannot afford to either. The state BuaNews agency says worried family members today pleaded for the release of the pair. “We are asking you to please let them go … they are just ordinary Africans like yourselves with similar problems, we are not rich,” said Debbi’s brother Dale van der Merwe.

Van der Merwe confirmed that men contacted him earlier this month to demand ransom. “Yes, I received a call from someone. It was made from a cell phone and they asked for this ridiculous amount and we just don’t have it,” Van der Merwe said, adding that they hadn’t heard from either Calitz or Pelizzari since they were captured and cannot verify the people demanding the ransom are indeed the kidnappers or that the couple are still alive.

DIRCO Deputy Director General for Public Diplomacy Clayson Monyela said the department was doing its part to ensure the safe return of the two. “Government is rendering consular support and like many other South Africans, we want to see their safe return and we are working very closely with the families,” he said.