South African yacht crew members Bruno Pelizzari and Debbie Calitz were captured a year ago (October 2010), by Somali pirates, at the entrance to the Mozambique/ Madagascar Channel.
The hostage takers are currently demanding US $4 million for their release. This amount had been dropped in March 2011, but was raised again after interference with negotiations.
Diplomatic attempts by the South African Government, to secure their release have been unsuccessful.
Two family members have been taken and are being held in unknown conditions, possibly subject to abuse and/or deprivation. The families are unable to raise anything close to an amount that would be acceptable to the hostage takers and are appealing to the generosity of the public, from all walks of life:
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NPO Number 093-657 (09/09/2011)
Bruno Pelizzari (52) is the only son of a widowed mother in her 80′s, and a father of two, who was en route to see his newly-born grandson, Calvin, when he was kidnapped.
Debbie Calitz (49) is a mother of four children, and was also on the way to see her new grandson, Dominic. She doesn’t know about her second granddaughter, Niquita, who was born in September 2011, and a third one is now on the way.
Usually pirates attack large ships carrying valuable cargo, covered by insurance and backed by large companies. These are two working-class individuals with no ship, no cargo and no insurance.
- 23 Oct 2010: A basic South African yacht, the Choizil, set out from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to Richards Bay, South Africa for repairs. Captained by Peter Eldridge, with Bruno Pelizzari and Deborah Calitz as crew
- 26 Oct 2010: Yacht hijacked by 12 pirates as it was about to enter the Madagascar / Mozambique Channel. Pirates changed the course Northbound. When the Choizil approached the Somali coastline, a naval vessel attempted to assist, but kept its distance, for fear of hostages being harmed.
- 6 Nov 2010: The yacht was beached at Baraawe, Somalia. The two crew members were taken ashore but skipper Peter Eldridge refused to leave his vessel, despite being severely beaten, and was later rescued by members of the naval vessel.
Families were notified by the Department of International Relations that the couple had been taken hostage.
- 14 Dec 2010: Families in SA received the first call from the pirates. Initial ransom demand was US $10 million.
- 28 Mar 2011: Ransom had been dropped to US $500,000 (half a million).
- 19 Aug 2011: Ransom demand increased and currently stands at US $4 million, after interference with negotiations.
- 22 Aug 2011: First communication with one of the hostages, thus confirming they are still alive! Bruno Pelizzari was allowed, by his captors, to speak briefly to his sister, only to confirm that they (the hostages) would not be released without the payment of a ransom.
- 18 Oct 2011: The family negotiator was permitted to speak to and record the conversations with both Bruno and Debbie; with a view for the families to use the recording on any media platform possible in order to generate the funds to obtain the release of both hostages.
Sounds the call to come together,
And united we shall stand,
Let us live and strive for freedom,
In South Africa our land.