AfriForum is demanding answers from all the relevant state departments, including the Department of Home Affairs and the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), regarding the confusion that is currently prevailing with regard to the return of South Africans from neighbouring countries.
According to Alana Bailey, AfriForum’s Head of Cultural Affairs, hundreds of people have been stranded in neighbouring countries such as Namibia and Mozambique since the COVID-19 lockdown measures were implemented worldwide this year and which resulted in the closing of international borders. Even though they have the ability to travel back on their own, they are required to keep on waiting outside the borders for unspecified times and reasons. When they are finally informed that they are allowed to return, the arrangements are frequently indefinitely postponed on short notice and without explanation, which causes unbearable tension for these people and their loved ones in South Africa and sets huge challenges to their resources.
Even when the return travels finally continue, things do not necessarily go as planned. The latest example is a group of South Africans that had to return to South Africa via Namibia on 31 May 2020. Some of them even departed before sunrise to be on time at the border post. The group includes senior citizens and people with serious health conditions. They were informed at around 16:00 by the South African officials at the border post that the border post doesn’t carry any knowledge of them. Despite the fact that the group had proof of all arrangements, as well as support from the Namibian authorities, the personnel of the South African High Commission in Windhoek and even the quarantine facility in South Africa, they were only processed after 21:00 and arrived at the quarantine facility at about midnight.
While the tragic red tape was continuing, hundreds more people in neighbouring countries are awaiting their turn to drive back, and thousands more from across the globe are awaiting flights to South Africa.
“Yesterday’s events are, like various other incidents over the past two months, unacceptable. A group of vulnerable people were put in danger by being expected to drive long distances late at night while exhausted and tense. After all this time, one would expect better communication, but the problems faced by returnees in March are still repeating itself,” says Bailey.
“Something that is aggravating the frustration is the fact that blame is often being shifted between all the state departments and even the authorities of all the countries that are involved with each repatriation process. Some of the personnel in foreign missions, expat groups and even churches are attempting to help people that are stranded and we praise them for their support. However, to constantly try and make plans to return to the country using poor communication, whilst at the same time trying to please employers, clients, education and other institutions, and individuals awaiting your return, is becoming an impossible situation to manage. People are becoming desperate. The responsible authorities need to accept accountability and manage the situation better. AfriForum is hoping to be in court soon with legal action in this regard.”