It’s our diplomatic duty to bring South Africans back home — Dirco

Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Naledi Pandor said on Thursday that it is the government’s duty to ensure that South Africans who are stuck overseas are brought back home.

The minister was speaking at a briefing the department of international relations and co-operation (Dirco) held on social media about the repatriations of South Africans who are stranded abroad. 

“As the department, in terms of international law, Dirco has the responsibility to provide assistance to South Africans [who] are in distress outside our borders. We have not neglected the individuals [who] have approached us, and said, ‘Please help’,” said the minister. 

Although it is working on bringing citizens back, Pandor acknowledged that when the government was making plans to lock down the country it did not anticipate that there would be a need to provide assistance to South Africans who are overseas.

She said, so far, the department has recorded more than 3 600 people wanting to come back home.

Pandor said the government has repatriated 600 citizens from other countries in Africa. Internationally, she mentioned that recently 60 people were brought back from Brazil and more than 300 South Africans who had been stuck in Miami landed yesterday.

But the minister said some negotiations with other countries are proving difficult. She said the department has not yet “cracked” Thailand, and is still waiting for Pakistan to give it permission to repatriate 84 South Africans. 

“All countries are in lockdown — it’s not a matter of saying ‘I want to come back’, and it  happens tomorrow — we have to negotiate,” said the minister, adding that the department has to ensure that people who return know that they will be subjected to a 14-day quarantine. 

For some people stuck overseas, getting home is even more tricky, as they are far from big flight hubs.

Stuck in Peru

A group of six hikers in Peru are stuck after they couldn’t get to São Paulo, in Brazil, where a flight that had taken Brazilians from South Africa was returning with South Africans from South America. 


On March 15, Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra, declared a national emergency, and instituted a 15-day quarantine and other travel restrictions. This lockdown has since been extended to April 26.  

After their own attempts to leave the country did not work when the lockdown was initially announced, the group approached the department of international relations and co-operation for assistance. They were given the option to fly out of São Paulo, but they could not make the flight. 

The department  then said travellers should head to Lima, in Peru, where the department will try to make a plan to get them to South Africa. One of the hikers, Razine Patel, said the embassy assured them that they were looking for sponsors for their movement out of Lima.  

“The embassy kept saying that they were negotiating to get a chartered flight from Cusco to Lima and Lima to São Paulo”, she said. “The embassy warned us that these  flights were going to be expensive but there was never a plane or an amount or a list to put your name on. The plan to get us the flights never materialised.” 

Last month, the Mail & Guardian spoke to Tshepi Marishane  and Nunu Ngoasheng, who were also stuck in Cusco. They are now back home because they arranged their own chartered flight from Cusco to São Paulo, with the department helping with travel permits.  

Marishane said they were then able to catch the SAA flight returning home. 

Dirco spokesperson Lunga Ngqengelele told the M&G the department is aware of the group in Peru, but could not answer why they were left behind. 

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Tshegofatso Mathe
Tshegofatso Mathe
Tshegofatso Mathe is a financial trainee journalist at the Mail & Guardian.
Advertising

Coalition politics and law: The fight over Tshwane

With coalition politics on the rise, particularly in local government, this kind of court case is likely to become more common

High court declares Dudu Myeni delinquent

Disgraced former SAA chairperson Dudu Myeni has been declared a delinquent director by the...

SANDF inquiry clears soldiers of the death of Collins Khosa

The board of inquiry also found that it was Khosa and his brother-in-law Thabiso Muvhango who caused the altercation with the defence force members

No back to school for teachers just yet

Last week the basic education minister was adamant that teachers will return to school on May 25, but some provinces say not all Covid-19 measures are in place to prevent its spread
Advertising

Press Releases

Road to recovery for the tourism sector: The South African perspective

The best-case scenario is that South Africa's tourism sector’s recovery will only begin in earnest towards the end of this year

What Africa can learn from Cuba in combating the Covid-19 pandemic

Africa should abandon the neoliberal path to be able to deal with Covid-19 and other health system challenges likely to emerge in future

Coexisting with Covid-19: Saving lives and the economy in India

A staggered exit from the lockdown accompanied by stepped-up testing to cover every district is necessary for India right now

Covid-19: Eased lockdown and rule of law Webinar

If you are arrested and fined in lockdown, you do get a criminal record if you pay the admission of guilt fine

Covid-19 and Frontline Workers

Who is caring for the healthcare workers? 'Working together is how we are going to get through this. It’s not just a marathon, it’s a relay'.

PPS webinar Part 2: Small business, big risk

The risks that businesses face and how they can be dealt with are something all business owners should be well acquainted with

Call for applications for the position of GCRO executive director

The Gauteng City-Region Observatory is seeking to appoint a high-calibre researcher and manager to be the executive director and to lead it

DriveRisk stays safe with high-tech thermal camera solution

Itec Evolve installed the screening device within a few days to help the driver behaviour company become compliant with health and safety regulations

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday