$4.2m paid for Stephen McGowan’s release - report

International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane earlier announced McGowan’s release and safe return to the country.

A screengrab of South African Stephen McGowan and Swede Johan Gustofsson (back) in a video released in June 2015.

JOHANNESBURG - The New York Times is reporting that an estimated $4.2 million was paid to secure the release of Stephen McGowan, who had been held captive by al-Qaeda in Mali since 2011.

McGowan is the last of three hostages to be released after Dutchman Sjaak Rijke was freed in 2015, and Swede Johan Gustafsson in June this year.

International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane earlier announced McGowan’s release and safe return to the country, adding that he was undergoing medical tests.

A spokesperson for State Security, Brian Dube, is adamant that no ransom amount was paid.

“The ministers of DIRCO and State Security did respond to a similar question posed earlier on during a media briefing. They indicated that the position of the government of South Africa is that they did not pay ransom money, and that position still holds.”

McGowan’s father Malcolm has praised President Jacob Zuma, the government and various other organisations for their help.

(Edited by Zamangwane Shange)