Home Opinion and Features Petition aims to have SA engineers freed from Equatorial Guinea prison

Petition aims to have SA engineers freed from Equatorial Guinea prison

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In another bid to have two South African engineers set free from an Equatorial Guinea prison, where they have been detained for more than a year after being sentenced on drug trafficking charges, their families have started an online petition.

South African engineer Frik Potgieter and his colleague Peter Huxham face a harrowing ordeal in Equatorial Guinea’s Mongomo Prison. Picture: Supplied

CAPE TOWN – The families of two engineers held in prison in Equatorial Guinea have started a petition to get them freed. The engineers have been detained for more than a year, after being sentenced on drug trafficking charges.

The men’s family representative’s confirmed that Frederick Potgieter, 54, from George, and Peter Huxman, 55, from Langebaan, have only been able to speak to their family three times in the 491 days they have been imprisoned.

The petition, which was launched on May 31, has reached more than 1,300 people with the words: “Help Free Frik and Peter – Two innocent South Africans.”

The duo were working on an oil rig off the coast of Equatorial Guinea when they were arrested at their hotel for possession of cocaine, allegedly hidden in their luggage.

But the men’s families are adamant that they are innocent and are hostages caught in the political crossfire between SA and Equatorial Guinea.

They also believe the charges were fabricated just two days after South Africa seized the luxury super yacht belonging to Equatorial Guinea’s Vice-President Teodore Nguema Obiang Mangue (known as Teddy).

The Blue Shadow, a 76m luxury yacht worth more than R300 million, belonging to oil-rich Equatorial Guinea’s Vice-President Teodorin Nguema Obiang Mangue, was seized by officers of the Western Cape High Court where it was docked at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town. File picture: Armand Hough, African News Agency (ANA)

Earlier, South Africa had also seized his two luxury Cape Town villas.

The vice-president’s assets were seized following a court ruling in South Africa on a separate matter.

The family said while the super yacht had been released, the villas remained impounded and the two men remained in prison.

The two were sentenced to 12 years imprisonment and fined $5 million (about R92m) each. Their families have since lodged an appeal against the court’s ruling.

Last year, it was reported that Obiang claimed the yacht, Blue Shadow, had belonged to the military but that it was listed as a pleasure craft that sails under the Cayman Islands’ flag.

The vessel was seized in Cape Town in adherence to an attachment order, on February 7 last year, in relation to Daniel Janse van Rensburg’s ongoing lawsuit against Obiang.

It was related to outstanding damages awarded to him after a court battle for his incarceration at Black Beach Prison, on Bioko island off the mainland of Equatorial Guinea, between 2013 and 2015.

Dani Cohen, on behalf of the families, said the men were never given a fair trial. “They were not allowed to bring witnesses and were (fined and) sent to prison for 12 years.”

She said the families’ communication with the men had been minimal and she would prefer that the media did not speak directly to the relatives due to safety concerns, and hopes that the petition would bear fruit.

Shaun Murphy, spokesperson for the Potgieter family, said they hoped the petition would get things moving.

“There is no doubt that they are innocent, and that their arrests are aimed at forcing SA to release the vice-president’s properties. This is clear from his outrage against SA on X when Frik and Peter were arrested.

“The campaign is intended to call on all parties to assist in securing Frik and Peter’s freedom, but most especially the assistance of the SA government, and also the UK government as Peter is a dual citizen of that country.”

They also contacted the Department of International Relations and Co-operation, but did not get a response.

In May, Pandor, concluded her Working Visit to Malabo, Republic of Equatorial Guinea, where she held bilateral talks with her counterpart, HE Mr Simeon Oyono Esono Angue, Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Co-operation and Diaspora.

In a statement released via Dirco, they said: “Minister Pandor took advantage of her presence in Equatorial Guinea to raise with the authorities South Africa’s concerns regarding the incarceration of two South African citizens in the country.

“The Minister reiterated South Africa’s plea to the government of Equatorial Guinea for the release of the incarcerated South African citizens. Engagements on this matter are continuing.”

Francois Nigrini, spokesperson for the Huxham family, said they were calling on the SA government to set the men free.

In March 2024, the South African consular office in Equatorial Guinea granted a third visit to Frik and Peter, who were able to call their family.

The petition to demand the urgent release of Frik and Peter can be found here. The website www.freefrikandpeter.co.za also provides more information on the duo’s plight.

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