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More than 5,000 South Africans repatriated, less than R10m spent

21 May 2020 - 11:46 By Zingisa Mvumvu
Repatriation flights have cost the taxpayer only R10m, compared with an initial estimate of R90m.
Repatriation flights have cost the taxpayer only R10m, compared with an initial estimate of R90m.
Image: Supplied

The government has repatriated more than 5,000 South Africans from overseas since the start of the Covid-19 lockdown.

And this has cost the SA taxpayer less than R10m for what was initially estimated would be a R90m mission.

This was revealed by minister of international relations Naledi Pandor during a media briefing on Thursday.

The only category of people the government has refused to help are those who had been imprisoned in other countries and were released during the lockdown.

Pandor said those who found themselves in other countries for reasons of committing crime must find their own way back.

“On prisoners, these do not fall in the category of people stranded and in distress due to the lockdown,” said Pandor. “People who committed a crime in Brazil or any other country reached that country by some means and they would have to find the means similarly of returning independently.”

Similarly, Pandor said South Africans who had been repatriated and suddenly wanted to return to other countries to escape the lockdown in SA would have to foot the bill.

This is because they would have initially asked to be repatriated “on false pretences”, said Pandor.

“I must say that this repatriation has not cost us a great deal, it has been far less than R10m.

“We had expected over R90m,” but an arrangement on the cost of jet fuel had significantly reduced expenditure, she said..

“As to how many South Africans still need help, I do not have the numbers as yet but they certainly would be far less than the 5,000-plus we have repatriated up to this point.”

Those who wish to go back to countries from which they were repatriated for work purposes, if those economies have reopened, were being helped by government in negotiating with SAA. But each would have to pay the costs themselves.