Pandor heads to Equatorial Guinea to seek release of jailed SA duo

Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor will travel to Equatorial Guinea this weekend to try to persuade that country’s government to release the two South African oil engineers who have been detained there for almost 15 months on apparently trumped-up charges. .

Pandor department spokesperson Clayson Monyela confirmed to daily Mavéricok that achieving the release of Frederik (Frik) Potgieter and Peter Huxham would be the objective of Pandor’s visit to the Central African State.

“The families are desperate for news about Frik and Peter and for their urgent release,” Francois Nigrini, a spokesman for their families, said Wednesday night.

“More than 14 months have passed since they were arrested and illegally imprisoned in Equatorial Guinea. They are innocent and were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. We hope that Minister Pandor’s visit can secure their release and we are deeply grateful for all the efforts to bring them home.”

The two men were arrested on February 9, 2023 and charged with drug trafficking. However, their families suspect that the real reason was that two days before their arrest, South Africa had confiscated two luxury homes and a superyacht in Cape Town belonging to the extremely wealthy vice president of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue.

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The seizure was related to another case and had nothing to do with Potgieter and Huxham, so their families say they were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“Frik and Peter are professional and highly experienced engineers who were working for the Dutch company SBM Offshore in Equatorial Guinea at the time of their arrests,” Shaun Murphy, a spokesman for the Potgieter family, said in February this year.

“Frik and Peter are hostages in the hands of a foreign power. “These two men find themselves in the situation they are in due to an international dispute between South Africa and Equatorial Guinea.”

The two men were arrested at their hotel in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, the night before their flight back to South Africa after a five-week job rotation.

At their trial in June 2023, they each received a 12-year sentence, a primary fine of $5 million and additional fines to share between them, “for fabricated drug offenses,” Murphy said.

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“The sentence and fines are much higher than current Equatorial Guinea law allows. His trial, marked by numerous irregularities, took place in June 2023.

“The sentence and fines were based on outdated penalties for the alleged crimes, indicating a disturbing departure from the country’s new Penal Code.

“The prosecutor did not present any witnesses or expert reports to the court, nor was any evidence presented that the alleged drugs were found on the two men and, furthermore, the nature of the alleged drugs was not conclusively proven or demonstrated.” DM