After six years and one month in captivity, Gerco van Deventer was finally released by an Al Qaeda splinter group. The non-profit organization Gift of the Givers, known for their humanitarian work, announced Van Deventer’s unconditional release, marking him as the longest-held South African hostage.
The involvement of Gift of the Givers began in 2018 at the family’s request. They engaged with Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM), a group they previously interacted with during the release negotiations for Stephen McGown, Johan Gustafsson, and Christo Bothma. This engagement facilitated connections with various international negotiators working on behalf of multiple hostages.
Initially, the captors demanded a $3 million ransom for Van Deventer, but Gift of the Givers managed to negotiate this down to $500,000. However, due to financial constraints faced by Van Deventer’s family, his employer, and the absence of a benefactor, the ransom could not be paid, as explained by Dr. Imtiaz Sooliman, founder of Gift of the Givers.
The negotiation process faced setbacks and eventually stalled, especially with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, in January 2023, efforts to restart the negotiations were initiated. The organization leveraged significant religious periods like Ramadan and Hajj, traditionally times of goodwill, to appeal for Van Deventer’s ransom-free release. Support from religious leaders was also enlisted to strengthen their request.
Gift of the Givers’ humanitarian work, such as their assistance during the Morocco Earthquake and their intervention in Gaza, played a crucial role in drawing a positive response from the captors. This connection led to renewed requests for Van Deventer’s unconditional release.
In a dramatic turn of events, the organization received a call in early December from an unknown individual in Mauritania, indicating progress in Van Deventer’s release. Finally, they were informed that Van Deventer had been released into Algeria, as direct release through Mali was impeded by military conflicts in the region.
The South African State Security was informed by Algerian State Security about Van Deventer’s release and his subsequent health check at a hospital. Gift of the Givers now awaits updates on Van Deventer’s health and the arrangements for his return home to his wife Shereen and son Asher. This marks the end of a prolonged period of uncertainty, prayer, and hope for his family and supporters.