One year in detention for SA engineers in Equatorial Guinea

Henry

It will be exactly one year on Friday (February 9, 2024) since two South African engineers were arrested in Equatorial Guinea on apparently spurious drug-related charges. And they are still not home.

Peter Huxham and Frik Potgieter are each currently serving a 12-year prison sentence in a prison for political prisoners in Mongomo.

However, Huxham and Potgieter’s loved ones at home insist they are innocent.

They believe that Huxham and Potgieter only find themselves in the situation because of an international dispute between South Africa and Equatorial Guinea. Yet it seems that all pleas to the South African government to intervene over the past year have fallen on deaf ears.

“Frik and Peter were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time,” says Shaun Murphy, spokesman for Potgieter’s family.

“We as the families are desperately looking to our government and the relevant departments to use their expertise and position to liaise with their counterparts in Equatorial Guinea to bring home two innocent South Africans, and the pain caused by them and their families and friends are experiencing, to end.

“They are hostages. Their detention is not their fault, but even worse, there is nothing they can do to secure their own release – only the South African government can do that.”

Murphy says that judging from the South African government’s case before the International Court of Justice in The Hague, it is very clear that the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) has the authority, leadership and capabilities that are needed to act on an international level in to grab

“However, the sad reality is that they have done very little to assist their own citizens, and apart from being heartbreaking, this alone should be of great concern to any South African traveling for work.”

Still, Huxham and Potgieter’s families cling to the slim hope they have.

Huxham’s fiancee, Kathy McConnachie, washed and ironed his clothes every other week in anticipation of his arrival home.

The couple, who got engaged during one of the few phone calls since Huxham’s arrest, bought a plot of land in Langebaan on the West Coast a year ago before Huxham’s arrest with the hope of building their dream retirement home.

McConnachie had already laid the foundations and built the walls and roof in Huxham’s absence. However, she is now waiting for Huxham to come home to do the wiring.

Potgieter and his wife Sonja’s daughter Jolene, who was supposed to get married last year, has meanwhile been put on hold pending her father’s arrival home.

Murphy says Huxham and Potgieter were indeed robbed of a year on earth with their families and friends.

Huxham, from Langebaan on the West Coast, and Potgieter, from George in the Western Cape, were arrested at different times at the Anda China hotel in Malabo on 9 February last year after police believe drugs were found in Potgieter’s and Huxham’s luggage. found in their hotel rooms; these allegations are not true at all as the police apparently did not even seize the luggage.

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 worked in different departments of the company at that stage and were just acquaintances.

Huxham and Potgieter’s arrests are said to be related to the seizure of a superyacht and luxury properties in Cape Town belonging to Equatorial Guinea’s deputy president, Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue.

RNews previously reported that South African authorities seized two houses and a superyacht belonging to Mangue on February 7 after a South African businessman sued him for illegal arrest and torture.

Daniel Janse van Rensburg was illegally detained and tortured for 491 days in a notorious prison in Equatorial Guinea after a business deal went wrong in 2013.

Huxham and Potgieter were arrested a few days after the seizures.