International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane on Tuesday failed to clarify whether her department knew that Pierre Korkie’s release had been secured.
“I had given you… specifics on what we did and knew about this particular case, from the time the hostages were taken to our interaction with the Yemeni government to the visit of the former deputy minister to where we are today,” she told reporters in Pretoria.
“I’ve given a blow-by-blow of what we knew, what we did as government.”
Nkoana-Mashabane did not clarify whether the Gift of the Givers had informed her department that Korkie would be released.
“We work with all interested parties who want to secure the release of our hostages where they are found.”
She said Dirco worked with Gift of the Givers during many emergency situations.
Korkie and American photographer Luke Somers were killed during an attempt by US special forces to free them from their Al-Qaeda captors in Yemen in the early hours of Saturday.
The Gift of the Givers, which helped in negotiating with Al-Qaeda, said Korkie died a day before he was due to be released following a negotiated deal.
Nkoana-Mashabane said since Korkie and his wife Yolande were taken hostage in May 2013 her department had been working through various channels which included the government of Yemen through South Africa’s ambassador to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, who is accredited to Yemen on a non-resident basis.
“Throughout the year we continued to work tirelessly for the freedom of our fellow citizen, like we do with all other hostages that are still held in other parts of the world,” she said.
“On Sunday I had a telephone discussion with my Yemeni counterpart… about the death of Mr Korkie.”
Yemen’s foreign affairs minister had expressed condolences on Korkie’s death.
Nkoana-Mashabane said South Africa was also in contact with the US government on the details and circumstances surrounding the “failed” operation.
She reiterated that the US did not know Korkie was being held with Somers.
“Obviously when you are held hostage nobody comes to do a citizens check on you.
“There were intentions to try and get those hostages free, safe and sound, it didn’t work out the way it was planned.”
The minister said what remained was that everyone was working on combating terrorism.
Nkoana-Mashabane said Korkie’s remains arrived in South Africa at around 6am on Tuesday morning.
The body was taken to a laboratory where an autopsy would be conducted. Once this had happened the body would be handed over to Korkie’s family in Bloemfontein. SAPA