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Setback for South Africans stranded in Egypt as travel plans shelved

14 April 2020 - 10:58 By Ernest Mabuza
Plans for South Africans stranded in Egypt as a result of lockdown to return to SA on Tuesday have been delayed. Stock image.
Plans for South Africans stranded in Egypt as a result of lockdown to return to SA on Tuesday have been delayed. Stock image.
Image: 123RF / Travnikovstudio

Hopes that South Africans who are stranded in Egypt as a result of the national lockdown would return to SA on Tuesday were dashed after plans to arrange a flight for their repatriation did not materialise.

Last Wednesday, the department of international relations and co-operation (Dirco) sent a message to about 42 South Africans in Egypt informing them that it was planning to enter into negotiations with one airline in SA to help with their evacuation.

However, this would only be possible if they made a commitment to pay between R7,000 and R10,000 per person, the embassy said.

Embassy staff were at pains last Wednesday to point out that this communication should not be interpreted as if the plan was a “done deal” as negotiations were still in process. The flight to SA was planned for April 14.

However, the situation changed on Saturday when the embassy in Egypt sent another message to the stranded South Africans informing them that arrangements for their departure would change.

“It is something beyond the control of Dirco HQ. The new snag is related to SAA's flight route rights and landing allocations.

“What Dirco is now working on is the option of a chartered flight to pick up the stranded passengers in Egypt and take them to the next neighbouring country where SAA does not face the same limitations,” the message from the embassy read.

The message said in terms of the earlier arrangement, South Africans in Egypt were going to be joined in Cairo by other South Africans brought in by charter from neighbouring countries.

“Cairo was meant to be the hub for all of them. The implication of this latest development is that the departure on April 14 is no longer feasible.”

The embassy said those passengers who were not yet in Cairo and wanted to remain where they were could choose to remain there until further communication.

“One thing we should not discount is that the Egyptian government might still impose a more stringent lockdown which will prevent movement between cities.”

The embassy apologised to the stranded South Africans.

“They must rest assured that Dirco is doing everything possible to expedite the process of their departure.”