Pretoria – The first thing Stephen McGown said to his elated wife Catherine as the two were reunited after more than five years was that her hair had grown.
“He looked at me and said wow, your hair has grown and I said, actually your hair is longer than mine now,” Catherine McGown said, as she laughed.
Catherine, McGown’s father Malcolm as well as International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and State Security Minister David Mahlobo held a joint press briefing about McGown’s release at the GCIS headquarters in Pretoria on Thursday.
McGown was not present at the press conference.
McGown, a South African national, was kidnapped in November 2011 in Timbuktu, Mali by Al Qaeda militants whilst on holiday. And was kept captive until his release on July 29 of this year.
Catherine, who never gave up hope, despite being despondent at times said she had all these scenarios playing in her head about the day that she would see him again, and all the things she would say to him, but the very first conversation was about hair, she joked.
McGown’s father said he was very surprised when McGowan walked through the door and that he was still in very good health.
“When I gave him a hug he held and sound as strong as before, he was well treated up there,” said Malcolm McGown.
He added that McGown would take a little time before he started again with the normal run of life and that he would make the best of what was.
Mahlobo said that there were no conditions for the release of McGown and added that along with government and NGOs, President Jacob Zuma had played a big role in his release.
McGown’s father echoed this statement.
“I want to thank President Zuma and his relationship with the President in Mali to achieve what they have achieved.”
McGown was kidnapped and taken captive alongside Swedish national Johan Gustafsson, who was also recently released.
His mother, Beverly, passed away in May 2017 while he was still captive.