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South Africans still stranded in Egypt despite promise of repatriation flight

South Africans in Egypt are still waiting for official word about when they will be repatriated to SA. File photo.
South Africans in Egypt are still waiting for official word about when they will be repatriated to SA. File photo.

Forty-three South Africans stranded in Egypt since the lockdown started on March 27 are growing increasingly anxious about their return to SA.

Last week, plans for their repatriation hit a snag when their flight planned for April 14 was cancelled because SA Airways (SAA) didn't have landing rights.

Another plan hatched last week was for the South Africans in Egypt to charter a flight to Morocco to join fellow South Africans in that country for a flight back to SA. That plan did not materialise because they could not afford the R800,000 needed for the charter flight.

On Saturday, the department of international relations and co-operation (Dirco) announced that the South Africans stranded in Egypt would be picked up on that day (April 18) and repatriated to SA.

Dirco said the two SAA flights would depart from Frankfurt in Germany on April 18.

“The second flight will be diverted to Egypt to pick up 34 (sic) of our people stranded in that country,” the department said in the statement issued on Saturday.

However, South Africans in Egypt said on Sunday the group was not given details about the planned flight.

“It was posted in the newspapers but we have not received any information. We are puzzled as it claims we are 34 people when  we are actually 43,” Melissa Schnettler, one of the South Africans stranded in Egypt, said on Sunday.

Schnettler said this was the group's fifth “maybe” flight.

When asked to explain the statement issued on Saturday, Dirco spokesperson Clayson Monyela said according to Edries Ebrahim, who is co-ordinating the repatriations from Dirco's command centre, SAA changed its flight after the department's statement had been issued.

SAA cited technical/operational reasons for changing the flight schedule, Monyela said.

“It looks like the flight is only going there today (Monday)," Monyela said.

However, Schnettler was still not satisfied with the explanation from Dirco.

“Well if it is today, we do not know anything,” Schnettler said on Monday afternoon.