The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) has expressed its serious concern about the detention of two South African citizens in Equatorial Guinea.
Frik Potgieter (53) and Peter Huxham (55), the two South Africans who were arrested on drug-related charges in Equatorial Guinea in West Africa in February, were found guilty in a court in that country last month and sentenced to 12 years sentenced to prison.
Zane Dangor, director general of Dirco, expressed his dismay at the sentence and extended his support to the families and friends of the detainees.
Dangor expressed his dismay that the South African embassy, contrary to international law, is still being denied access to the two men. “The government of Equatorial Guinea failed in its obligation to formally notify Dirco and grant consular access through the embassy officials to the two South African citizens.” He emphasized that such access is expressly required by conventions to which both countries are parties and that there have been numerous official requests in this regard.
Dangor expressed his willingness to have more direct and constructive cooperation with the relevant authorities regarding this matter.
“However, the continued refusal of access to the two South African citizens in need jeopardizes the long-standing good bilateral relations between the two countries.”
Potgieter and Huxham must each also pay R94 million in damages and pay a fine of R47 million each.
The unexpected twist and sentences were a huge shock for their loved ones, who were convinced that Potgieter and Huxham would be acquitted and return to South Africa.
The men’s families insist they are innocent. According to their respective family spokesmen, the state also failed to produce any tangible evidence against Potgieter and Huxham in court; a development that greatly worries the men’s legal representatives.
RNews earlier reported that Potgieter (from George in the Western Cape) and his colleague, Huxham (from Langebaan), were apprehended and arrested at different times at the Anda China hotel in Malabo on 9 February. The two men have been working for many years as engineers for a Dutch oil and gas company, Single Buoy Mooring (SBM), and were due to return home the next day.
Potgieter and Huxham work in different departments of the company and were just acquaintances.
They were initially detained at the notorious Black Beach prison, but were later transferred to a prison in Mongomo in the east of the country.