Freed South African sailors to reach Johannesburg today

Dabbie and Bruno after being released by combined Somali, South African and Italian efforts
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South African cruising sailors Bruno Pelizzari and Debbie Calitz, the couple freed from pirates in Somalia last week, are expected back in Johannesburg today (Wednesday) after flying to Italy so that Bruno could see his elderly mother.

Clayson Monyela, spokesman for South Africa's Department of International Relations and Cooperation, said the couple would arrive on Wednesday (South African time) at 4.30pm.

'We are quite elated that they are coming home. This is what we were working around the clock for,' said Monyela.

The couple will be allowed time with their family on arrival, then taken to the offices of the department of international relations for a media briefing, he said.

'They will be staying at the president's house in Pretoria for a few days after that, just so they can give the authorities as much information as possible on the incident.'

Deborah's brother, Dale Van der Merwe said the South African government needed more information about the kidnapping in 2010.

The two cruising sailors were kidnapped from the yacht Choizil off the coast of Tanzania by Somali pirates in October 2010 and held hostage for about 20 months until their release last week. They had been helping the owner of the boat to deliver the yacht south along the coast to South Africa at the time of the kidnapping.

They were being held in the Lower Shebelle region of Somalia when they were freed by Italian and Somali forces last Wednesday.

Pelizzari, shocked by his new-found freedom, told The Times last week that he and Calitz sometimes 'lost hope' and 'the thought that we might not be freed did cross our minds'.

When the couple arrived in Rome Pelizzari was reunited not only with his 83-year-old mother but they also met three of Calitz's four adult children.

One of Pelizzari's five sisters, Nora Wright, said his time in captivity was 'tough' on his mother.

Calitz learned for the first time of two grandchildren, born while she was in captivity. She will meet them in Pretoria later this week.

It is known that the South African government helped secure their freedom in a joint effort with Italy and Somalia, but the exact terms of their release are not yet known.