Van Deventer

It has been six years since South African paramedic Gerco van Deventer, 47, was kidnapped while on duty in Awbari, Libya. Picture: Screengrab

It’s been 6 years since SA’s Van Deventer was kidnapped in Libya 

Gift of the Givers ramp up efforts in helping Gerco van Deventer’s family to organise his safe return from Mali.

Van Deventer

It has been six years since South African paramedic Gerco van Deventer, 47, was kidnapped while on duty in Awbari, Libya. Picture: Screengrab

2023 marks exactly six years since 47-year-old Gerco van Deventer was kidnapped in Libya on November 3, 2017.

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Gerco van Deventer’ kidnapping

Van Deventer had moved from Afghanistan to Libya for safer working conditions. 

He was kidnapped and sold to an Al-Qaeda group in Mali alongside three Turkish men who were released seven months later.

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Gerco is an emergency paramedic who was working for a security company in Afghanistan then later moved to Libya.

According to his wife Shereen van Deventer, Gerco is the only South African citizen held hostage by a non-state actor in the Sahel.

In March 2023, a French hostage, journalist Olivier Dubois, said he had been living with Van Deventer for nearly two years. He said Gerco is still alive.

Gerco van Deventer before he left for work in Libya where he was kidnapped. Image: Supplied

Gift of the Givers support

His family recently received information that he had been sold and was now being held in Mali.

Humanitarian organisation Gift of the Givers has been helping the family to organise Van Deventer’s safe return.

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Gift of the Givers founder Imtiaz Sooliman said it sent Yahya Dicko to negotiate Van Deventer’s release. He has already arrived in Mali.

Sooliman said Van Deventer’s captors sent a video in January this year, in which he asked for help and begged for his release.

“He looked good in the video. He said he was trying to get a hold of the government and that this was his last chance. I don’t know what he meant by that. My negotiator sent it to me, but we couldn’t keep negotiating and keep telling them you have no money. They could get angry. You have to be very careful.”

Imtiaz Sooliman

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Sooliman said the pandemic and natural disasters halted the negotiations.

He added that the lack of funds to pay the required ransom for Van Deventer’s release also delayed the negotiations.

The last time they held negotiations, the captors asked for $500 000 (R11.4 million).

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“We have decided to go back. My intermediary is actually in Mali. He landed there on Sunday morning. He’s already spoken to people we’ve dealt with before.”

Imtiaz Sooliman

Sooliman concluded by saying the organisation believes that the month of Ramadaan would soften his captors, and they would be open to negotiating his unconditional release.