Stephen was kidnapped from Timbuktu, along with a Dutch and Swedish national on 25 November 2011. He was 36 at the time of the kidnapping.
Freedom is an attitude “5 years 8 months is a long time. I believe that I’m like any other person. I’m no different. We all have problems and we shouldn’t judge one another, as we have different coping mechanisms and breaking points.
I do, however, believe that it’s our attitude that separates us and determines how we cope.
Some people give up too easily.” Freedom is an attitude During Stephen’s abduction, he was kept far from civilization, deep in the Sahara, away from the searching eyes of French surveillance planes and drones. He was allowed limited communication with his family in the first six months of his captivity. However, when the French Military Forces arrived in Mali, this ceased altogether. Stephen was cut off from all familiar ways of life.
Living outdoors in harsh conditions meant that he had to acquire a variety of new skills including how to protect himself from the elements as well as how to communicate across language and cultural boundaries. But most of all, he learnt how to stay alive; remain positive and be present when everything was stacked against him. Uncertain as to whether he would ever be released or die in the expanse of the Sahara, he made a decision to not let his situation get the better of him. He decided to rather hold onto hope and take control of his attitude.
Stephen was finally released in August 2017.
Stephen continues to claim back his life with a fresh and positive outlook, using the skills heacquired in the desert during his extreme experience. A part of this process is sharing his story to inspire others with hope and a way to overcome any situation that challenges or tests them.
It seems everyone I talk to wants to express appreciation for your inspiring talk last month. your ability to present such an intense experience in such an interesting way produced one of the most memorable and outstanding talks in our group’s history. I was moved to tears countless times. Your comments were very timely and I believe we can benefit immensely from the methods you suggested for dealing with people and living.
– Nkululeko Khumalo, COO, ABSA Legal