More South Africans repatriated home from other countries
About 800 South Africans have been repatriated from various countries in the past two weeks by the government with the most recent group having landed at OR Tambo International Airport from Lagos, Nigeria, earlier on Monday.
The 120 citizens from Nigeria - and 200 from London who landed in Cape Town on Sunday - flew in a South African Airways flight but the government said that it had not spent any money as these were not chartered flights.
Spokesperson for the minister of international relations & cooperation Lunga Ngqengelele said that the government is assisting people who were stuck in various countries due to the coronavirus lockdown that was put in place last month.
Minister Naledi Pandor announced two weeks ago that there were a total of 1,471 South Africans including 723 students, 204 employees, 224 tourists and as well as 320 others who were stranded abroad and that the government would help bring them back home.
Pandor said that in deciding who to repatriate, the government would prioritise people who already have tickets and were stuck at airports without food.
“The government does not have money to charter any plane to go and fetch South Africans," Ngqengelele said. "This is why focus is on people who were going to come back in any case like those who were temporarily outside of the country and were due to come back and now because of the lockdown they find themselves stranded, that is the focus of the government.”
Ngqengelele said that through negotiations they are able to place people with different airlines even if they did not necessarily purchase tickets from them.
“What we do through our embassy is to then negotiate with the planes that are fetching people and in terms of the payment [it] is between the people that are coming back. These would be the people that already had tickets to come back and all we do is to negotiate for those.
“If there are other countries that are specifically sending their flights to South Africa to come and fetch their people, even those we get South Africans in those,” he said.
He said that they were negotiating with various countries including Germany and London to bring back citizens.
Those who land in the country would have to go undergo a mandatory 21-day quarantine period as did those who were repatriated from the coronavirus epicentre in Wuhan, China.
Ngqengelele said that although they would normally plead with people to remain in those countries if they could, at least until the lockdown is lifted, they were barred by the constitution to deny South African citizens their right to come back home.