Somalis Unite against Piracy
The Somali community in South Africa has requested Somali pirates to free, two South African citizens they kidnapped 16 month ago. Local Somali community leaders made the appeal Friday during a public meeting attended by family members of the kidnapped South Africans. Several Somalis at the meeting expressed anger at the pirates for the pain their actions had caused the families of Bruno Pellizari and Debbie Calitz who were kidnapped in October 2010 while on the yacht, Choizil, sailing from Tanzania to Richard’s Bay.
“We appeal to Somali pirates or whoever is holding the two South Africans, to immediately release them, because they are poor and cannot afford the ransom demanded,” said Alas Jama, a Somali businessman in Bellville, speaking on behalf of the community. He said the Somali community in South Africa shared the pain with the family of the kidnap victims.
“We condemn what the pirates did and wish to show our solidarity with the Bruno and Calitz families,” Abdullahi Ali Hassan, another Somali businessman, said at the meeting. Kidnappers initially demanded a $4-million ransom to free them, but after Bruno’s family failed to raise the money, the captors ‘sold’ them to another group of Somalis who are now demanding a higher ransom.
Vera Hecht, a sister to Bruno, created a website appealing to the world to help with donations, but was unable to collect the amount demanded by the kidnappers. During Friday’s meeting in Bellville, Hecht appealed to the global Somali community to help her in the campaign to free the two South Africans. Somali pirates have been preying on vessels transiting in the busy sea lanes of the Gulf of Aden, which connects Europe to Asia and the Middle East via the Suez Canal.
According to industry data, the number of ships seized in the region by Somali pirates dropped last year, but the overall number of attempted attacks continues to rise and the raids have become increasingly violent. Pirates now hold six ships and roughly 176 hostages, the EU said, adding that this was well below last year’s figure. But average ransoms continue to rise. It now stands at about $5 million compared to $4 million last year.
South Africa is home to a large Somali refugee community, with most of them operating in the small scale business industry across the country. Somalia has been without an effective government since the ouster of Dictator Mohammed Siyad Barre in 1991. Since then, the Horn of Africa country sank into deadly violence that killed thousands and displaced hundreds of thousands.( Report by Hassan Isilow)