Govt urges South Africans to continue supporting McGowan family

Stephen McGowan McGowan was kidnapped by al-Qaeda militants in Mali six years ago.

FILE: Swede Johan Gustafsson (L), South African-Briton Stephen Malcom (C) and Dutch national Sjaak Rijke (R) held captive by al-Qaeda. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG - Government has asked South Africans to continue supporting Stephen McGowan’s family following news of his release on Thursday morning.

McGowan was kidnapped by al-Qaeda militants in Mali six years ago.

He is the last of three captives to be released after Dutchman Sjaak Rijke was freed in 2015, and Swede Johan Gustafsson in June 2017.

The Department of State’s Security’s Brian Dube says: “Mr McGowan is home. We’d like to thank the people of SA who’ve kept his family in their prayers. And we want to ask them to continue supporting the family and allow them space as they need time to adjust to the environment as well as take care of Mr McGowan.”

Charity organisation, Gift of The Givers, helped negotiate McGowan’s release.

The organisation’s Imtiaz Sooliman says he is disappointed Beverly McGowan died before witnessing her son’s return.

“I’m happy for the McGowan family. I’m also sad that Beverly McGowan passed on a month too early. She was waiting for this moment. If only he’d been released two months early, she would’ve seen her son.”

Stephen’s father Malcolm McGowan says his son is well and in good spirits.

WATCH: Family briefs media on Stephen McGowan's release

(Edited by Zamangwane Shange)