The 38-year-old Durban man had travelled to Italy with a group of 10 people and returned to South Africa last Sunday.
He consulted his private doctor earlier this week with symptoms of fever, headache, malaise, a sore throat and a cough.
The national health department said swabs were taken for testing and that the man was tested positive.
He has been self-isolating himself since Tuesday.
According to a statement released by Health Minister Zweli Mkhize on Thursday, an emergency team has been deployed to KwaZulu-Natal with epidemiologists and clinicians from the NICD.
The patient’s doctor has also been self-isolated, with no update yet on whether they have contracted the coronavirus.
Italy has the third-highest number of people hit by the Covid-19 virus, with 3 089 confirmed cases. South Korea reports 6 088 infections; the epicentre of the outbreak, China, has 80 411 confirmed cases.
The announcement of South Africa’s first confirmed case comes on the same day that Parliament holds a debate of national importance on the country’s readiness to respond to the virus.
The Democratic Alliance’s health spokesperson Siviwe Gwarube — who brought the debate to the National Assembly floor — said the Covid-19 crisis requires the input of all political parties and not only the executive.
“Plans to deal with this crisis needs to be tabled in this House for scrutiny, for discussion, and for adoption. It is important that when the president convenes an interministerial task team that decides to repatriate over 150 South Africans from Wuhan, China, the decision is tabled, scrutinised and adopted by Parliament,” she said.
Mkhize has promised to address the nation later on Thursday to provide an update on South Africa’s first reported case.