The family of Stephen McGowan, a South African who has been held hostage in Mali for five and a half years, hopes that government will negotiate his release soon following a new proof of life video released by AQIM (al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb), an Islamist militant organisation.
"I know it's a combined effort from government and Imtiaz Sooliman (Gift of the Givers chair). I hope they get Stephen out as quickly as possible," Stephen's father Malcolm McGowan told News24 on Monday.
McGowan was abducted in November 2011 at a hostel in Timbuktu, together with recently released Swedish national Johan Gustaffsson.
Malcom McGowan said he spoke to Gustafsson, who was released last week, via Skype.
"Johan Gustaffsson said they were well looked after. He looked well," said McGowan.
But he was worried because his son is on his own. "Obviously Stephen is now on his own, it's a lot more pressure there I think. They were sort of support to each other when the two of them were there at the same time," he said.
McGowan confirmed that he saw the 16 minute, 50 second-long video with no sound, in which Stephen McGowan appears with five other hostages.
The other five are Elliot Kenneth Arthur of Australia, Iulian Ghergut of Romania, Beatrice Stockly of Switzerland, Gloria Cecilia Narvaez of Colombia and Sophie Petronin of France, Sooliman said.
"The video addresses the six governments, but no demands are made. All six hostages have a chance to speak," he said.
McGowan appears in the third minute of the video. He is the first hostage to make an appearance.
Before each hostage appears, their country's flag and citizenship appear.
"Gustafsson confirmed telephonically that Stephen McGown was alive and well at the time that he was freed last week. We will be communicating with him for more detailed information soon," he said.
Stephen McGowan's mother, Beverly, died in May this year. She had been ill for many years but deteriorated in the past few months, Sooliman said. She died from anxiety over Stephen's fate and her longing to see him, he added. - News24