Dept confirms release of S-Africans in Equatorial Guinea

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Pretoria - The Department of International Relations and Cooperation has confirmed the release of four South Africans by the Equatorial Guinea Government into the custody of the South African Embassy in Malabo.

The department is planning to repatriate the four who had been jailed in Equatorial Guinea for their role in a failed coup in 2004.

The four men were released on Tuesday, together with British coup plotter Simon Mann and his other co-defendant.

Equatorial Guinea's information ministry said in a statement that President Teodoro Obiang Nguema had granted the men pardon on humanitarian grounds.

The ministry said they had given "sufficient evidence and credibility of their repentance and will for social rehabilitation."

In a statement, South Africa's International Relations Department acknowledged "the humanitarian gesture" of the Guinea government.

"The embassy officials, working together with the men's families, are in the process of facilitating their return to South Africa," spokesperson Nomfanelo Kotta said.

The coup unravelled before it began, when Mann and a plane-load of other mercenaries were arrested in Zimbabwe, where they had stopped to purchase assault rifles, grenades and anti-tank rockets.

Mann, 57, was sentenced to a 35-year sentence in Equatorial Guinea for the 2004 plot.

Meanwhile, President Jacob Zuma is due to visit the West African country today, which is Africa's third-largest oil producer.

According to Zuma's office, he is scheduled to hold a meeting with his counterpart Nguema with the aim of "strengthening bilateral relations between the two countries."