The Democratic Alliance (DA) will write to the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Naledi Pandor, to show leadership and urgently intervene in the current state of dysfunction at the South African Embassy in China. It has come to our attention that whilst officials at the Embassy are trying to hold the fort, the lack of an Ambassador’s presence or leadership from South Africa is hampering any hope of rescue or evacuation assistance in light of the outbreak of the Coronavirus.

The DA, through our international body, DA Abroad, has been in contact with over 100 South African citizens in China, many of them trapped in Wuhan. This, at a time when our Embassy has been closed due to the lunar New Year period. The 24 hour emergency DIRCO number has at times been unresponsive and where officials have responded the information has been too broad to give direction to citizens in the region.

The latest communication is that DIRCO will not evacuate South African citizens and that if citizens wish to leave they need to undergo a 14 day quarantine and then make their own way home. The DA is concerned that citizens are not pointed to the exact quarantine location and that no information is being offered in terms of available transport.

The Department has a minister and two deputy ministers and this would be an opportune time for one of them to show leadership and handle this crisis, especially in light of China being without an Ambassador. The Department needs to ensure that its mission is able to communicate and allay fears by providing clear and helpful communication and assistance at the same standard of other countries that have heeded the call. It is also important that we are in communication with the Department of Health to ensure that we have fail-safe screening for people returning from the region.

The DA has therefore also requested Minister Pandor to:

Ensure a manned telephone number at DIRCO that will serve as an advice centre for South African citizens in China;

Form a dedicated team to communicate and advise South Africans in the affected region;

Ensure that staff at the Embassy endeavour to find ways and means to direct citizens to quarantine and to inform them of transportation choices to evacuate; and

Keep citizens informed on how to minimise the risk of disease

The DA Abroad is willing to assist the Department to ensure that we can worth together to minimise the risk of disease and to facilitate the safe evacuation of any of our citizens seeking such assistance.

We understand that there are budget restraints and that this period has been chaotic. We are also sympathetic to the safety of our officials abroad and ask that they ensure that they take the necessary precautions to minimise the risk to themselves.

The Democratic Alliance will continue to offer assistance to DIRCO in this regard and take this opportunity to wish China a speedy resolution to this situation and full recovery to current patients with symptoms.

Source: African News Agency