Latest to hand (from a reliable source):
Bruno Pelizzari and Deborah Calitz have been held hostage on the Somali mainland since November, after the yacht they were helping to bring back to KwaZulu-Natal was hijacked off the Kenyan coast.
The pirates originally demanded $10m, and have been in contact with representatives of both their families, continuing to demand the money. However, family members kept saying the amount was too high and that they could not afford it.
A source close to one of the families said contact with the pirates had dropped off in recent months,with little communication taking place. Conversations remained a seesaw, with the families pleading with the pirates to let them go and the pirates saying this was a problem, and then asking what should now be done.
He said the ransom had now been dropped to $5m.
But according to Andrew Mwangura, director of the East African Seafarers’ Assistance programme in Mombasa and a wellknown hostage negotiator, “complications” had arisen.
He confirmed that the ransom demand had dropped, and said local community and religious leaders had instructed the pirates to release the couple unconditionally.
“It is no use keeping them if they (the pirates) can’t feed them or take good care of them. They are currently taking good care of them, but when there is no ship or cargo, there is no insurance.”
Mwangura said those who sponsored the pirates’ hijacking activities were not willing to invest in hostages if there was no money or insurance involved.
“So the pirates have been told to release them, but obviously they still have not. There are logistical issues, as, if they do get released, they would need to fly them to Nairobi and then to South Africa.”
Mwangura said in a previous interview that the pirates did not know that Pelizzari and Calitz were South African.
Pelizzari’s sister Vera said the family would pay the ransom if they could, but that it was impossible for them to do so.
“We just keep on telling them that they have made a mistake and that they took the wrong people.”
Clayson Monyela, a spokesman for the Department of International Relations and Co-operation, said no updates had been received and that the issue was sensitive.
Pelizzari and Calitz lived on the Bluff before sailing to Madagascar more than a year ago. They have been described by relatives and friends as quiet and spiritual.
The couple were sailing the yacht SY Choizil, along with the yacht’s owner Peter Eldridge, who is from Richards Bay, when they were hijacked.
Eldridge escaped the kidnapping after refusing to disembark from his yacht.
The pirates, who had opened fire on a team from a French warship which was monitoring the hijacked yacht after finding it sailing suspiciously close to shore, then removed Pelizzari and Calitz, leaving Eldridge behind.
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