South African national, Stephen McGowan, who was kidnapped by Islamist militants in Mali has been released, government announced on Thursday.
McGowan was kidnapped in November 2011 while touring in Timbuktu together with Swedish national Johan Gustaffsson – who was freed earlier this year.
The South African government together with humanitarian aid organisations have been campaigning for McGowan’s release since his kidnapping.
“We are happy to announce that finally these efforts have culminated in McGowan’s release on 29 July 2017,” International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana Mashabane told the media following a regular Cabinet meeting in Tshwane on Thursday.
She said the South African government did not pay a ransom for his release as the kidnappers had demanded.
“Our policy is well-known to the public that government does not negotiate or pay ransom to kidnappers,” the Minister said.
McGowan’s release is bitter sweet as he returns to the news that his mother, Beverly, passed away in May 2017.
The department of home affairs can now reopen the re-application process for the current Zimbabwe Special Permit (ZSP) holders, under certain conditions. The initial special dispensation for Zimbabweans was approved in April 2009 to document Zimbabwean nationals who were in South Africa illegally. Their permits expire on December 31, 2017.
Cabinet has approved South Africa’s bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup (RWC). Communications Minister Ayanda Dlodlo made the announcement at a media briefing in Tshwane on the outcomes of a Cabinet meeting that took place on Tuesday.
An independent Economic Impact Assessment commissioned by the South African Rugby Union (SARU), indicates a direct, indirect and induced economic impact of R27 billion over the two months of tournament related activity.
The assessment further states about 38 600 jobs with a payroll of R4.4 billion, R5.7 billion to low income families, R11 billion direct spend, about 200 000 foreign tourists to arrive for the tournament and estimated tax benefits to government of R1.4 billion.
“A successful bid by South Africa would consolidate its track record of successfully hosting mega events as well as positioning the country in the global mind-set as a winning nation and a leading sport tourism destination – with tourism having being identified as a national economic priority for job creation,” Sports and Recreation Minister Thulas Nxesi said.
Last year, the Minister of Sports took a decision to ban four sporting federations including rugby from bidding and hosting global events as they had failed to meet their own set transformation targets.
Minister Nxesi told reporters that the ban for rugby has been lifted.
“A report by… independent experts was presented to us. We have studied the report which was able to show that SARU has been able to meet its own targets of transformation. We will continue to assess them on annual basis on further targets… because we believe that transformation is a process, it is not an event,” Minister Nxesi said.
SA technically superior
SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux said that South Africa has a very competitive bid and it was technically superior.
“We will be able to host probably one of the best World Cups ever because we have the legacy of the stadiums that were built in 2010.
“In terms of our budget and budget approvals for the next couple of years we do have contingency within those budgets to upgrade those stadiums and to make sure that they are kept up to standard in terms of their pitches,” Roux said.
He said the pitches will be taken out and new ones will be put in for the event.
“We have all of the other infrastructure and we believe in terms our price parity, compared to Europe that we can provide the same hotels at the third of the price at three times the size of the hotel of Europe,” he said.
Furthermore, tickets to watch the games will be affordable for both South Africans and the rest of the world, Roux said.
The outcome of the bid will be announced in November with Ireland and France being the other bidders.