In what is expected to be a massive repatriation of South Africans stranded abroad, government has stepped up efforts to bring back home its citizens whose return has been scuppered by Covid-19 lockdowns in various countries, committed to contain the spread of the virus.
While he refused to be drawn to speculation that the intense repatriation programme could spell an end to the waiting agony for more than 1,000 South Africans whose coming home has been uncertain, department of international relations and cooperation (Dirco) spokesperson Lunga Ngqengelele yesterday said Dirco was “on a drive to use any available flight”.
“We are using all available means to address this challenge, including enlisting services of Qatar Airways, Ethiopian and private chartered planes to bring South Africans back home,” said Ngqengelele.
Several repatriation initiatives included:
- An announcement by the country’s ambassador to the United States, Nomaindia Mfeketo, of a plan to fly home hundreds of South Africans in the US, Canada and Caribbean Islands, with the first of the three scheduled flights landing at OR Tambo International Airport over the weekend.
- A South African Airways flight from Suvarnabhumi Bangkok in Thailand was expected to land with South African citizens at OR Tambo International on Friday.
- An undertaking by Qatar Airways to assist in bringing back all South Africans stranded abroad by operating relief charter flights from tomorrow.
- In a statement, the embassy of the State of Qatar in Pretoria, said over the weekend: “Qatar Airways office in South Africa will provide the respective embassies with consolidated booking lists of their citizens and esteemed embassies shall send those lists with a formal request to the embassy of the State of Qa-tar in Pretoria through e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
“These flights demonstrate the need for solidarity and international cooperation in order to respond to Covid-19. It represents an example of the excellent bilateral relations between the State of Qatar and South Africa,” the embassy said.
Also included among other South Africans reported to be stranded abroad, are:
- A group of 29 young South African musicians in Turkey.
- About 130 locals in the Indonesian island of Bali.
- An estimated 34 South Africans trapped in Morocco due to travel restrictions imposed to curb the spread of Covid-19, with most said to be staying in the country’s largest city Casablanca, as well as Marrakesh.
Running out of money and food has deepened a desperation by most to return home.