The repatriation of South Africans trapped abroad because of the COVID-19 has so far cost considerably less than initially estimated.
Dr. International Affairs and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor said this at an online media conference from the Department of International Relations and Cooperation’s (Dirco) headquarters in Pretoria on Thursday morning.
“It has cost less than R10m so far after we initially thought it would cost around R100m,” says Pandor.
According to her, Dirco has facilitated the repatriation of some 5,239 stranded citizens by air from overseas since the state of restriction in South Africa began on March 26 at 24:00 this year.
“Hundreds of more were also brought back by our border posts (with neighboring countries). This means that more South Africans are now repatriated than the initial 3,637 that requested it. “
The minister said the smaller costs associated with the repatriation process were due to the private sector offering their assistance. For example, Sasol donated a million liters of aircraft fuel for this purpose.
“Many of the South Africans who returned also paid for their flights themselves. Many of them already had flight tickets, but the flights with which they would return were canceled due to the pandemic. We managed to convince airlines that these people could transfer their tickets to available airlines. Therefore, the process was not as expensive as we initially thought it would be, ”she says.
“We still have to pay a lot of money, but Dirco will take up the matter with the national treasury to recover money from him.”
Pandor couldn’t say exactly how many South Africans were still stranded overseas, but she said it was far less than the initial number of people who requested help.
The South Africans mainly fetched aircraft from the South African Airways. Some of them were also fetched by cargo planes, in which there is also room for passengers.
Pandor says she is aware that South Africans are still stranded in China.
“All South Africans in China and elsewhere who wish to return to South Africa must contact the South African embassy in the country where they are located. We will then work with the authorities in each country to facilitate the process. ”