Johannesburg – It took three years and he is 20kg lighter, but Daniel van Rensburg finally returned to South Africa on Sunday.
“He’s back. He’s at home. He arrived just after 13:00 in Johannesburg and at about 18:17 in George. It was quite something to witness,” family spokesperson Fran Kirsten told News24.
“He’s lost 20kg. He’s a lot smaller, but he is a big tall man and the happiness for seeing his wife, daughter Abigail and both his mother and his father were also there [at the airport]. You could see when you look at him quietly when he doesn’t realise it, that he is exhausted.”
Van Rensburg was meant to leave Equatorial Guinea on Thursday, but was blocked by men who were believed to be working for former Malabo mayor Gabriel Bela Angabi, who had accused him of stealing money.
According to a Sunday Times report last year, Van Rensburg was said to have had a dispute with Angabi over a R30m aviation contract. He was arrested when he flew to Malabo in 2013 to resolve the matter.
Angabi reportedly wanted R1m from Van Rensburg.
He had been imprisoned in Black Beach prison.
Kirsten said Van Rensburg had gone through a lot, yet stayed positive.
“He’s got a very strong faith and I think that’s what’s holding him together,” she said.
“All of [his] friends and family members were waiting at the airport, and once we’d finished with him in the conference room, we walked down with him.”
“Immediately when he got to them, they formed a big circle and they prayed and they said thanks for his safe return. It’s something they are relying on a lot.”
‘Like a movie’
Earlier on Sunday, Kirsten said Van Rensburg had been released from prison about two or three weeks ago and the ban on him leaving the country was lifted at the airport.
The minister of justice had given him a letter stating that the ban had been lifted.
“So he arrived at the airport with personnel from the [South African] embassy armed with this letter stating he can now go, and just as he was entering customs Angabi’s men surrounded him.”
“He said it was very much like a movie. They just moved in, grabbed him by the arm, and said follow us to this little room,” Kirsten said.
The room was the same place where he had been re-arrested and thrown back in Black Beach prison, she added.
“He just said to the embassy staff ‘if I go in there they are going to kill me’, and they ran.
“They got him into the South African embassy where he was in hiding.”
The embassy arranged for Van Rensburg to fly out of Equatorial Guinea.
“[They were] very good to him apparently,” said Kirsten.
By Saturday, Van Rensburg was ready to leave Equatorial Guinea and he called to say he was getting VIP treatment at the airport and the manager had apologised to him.
“He then flew last night [Saturday] and he let us know he’s safe in Addis Ababa and he is going to sleep.”