The repatriation of South Africans from coronavirus-hit Hubei province‚ China‚ is going to cost taxpayers R25m.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has told parliament that he has employed 151 members of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) in service to support the department of international relations and co-operation (Dirco) and the department of health to return South Africans who are in Hubei province.
The aircraft was due to leave OR Tambo International Airport last night‚ said the government. The flight will stop over in the Philippines today for refuelling‚ to rest and to restock essential foodstuffs needed for the return journey.
In a letter to parliament’s presiding officers – National Assembly speaker Thandi Modise and National Council of Provinces chairperson Amos Masondo‚ Ramaphosa revealed that the deployment of SANDF was from March 1 to April 15. “The total expenditure expected to be incurred for this is R25m‚” he said.
A total of 184 South Africans living in Wuhan asked the government to evacuate them as a precaution amid the outbreak there. Most are students‚ teachers and other professionals working in the city‚ according to government. At this stage‚ only seven South Africans have opted to remain in Wuhan City.
“The aircraft with the capacity to bring back the citizens in Wuhan has been secured‚” said government.
A team with officials from various departments‚ including health and the military, will be on board.
In his letter‚ Ramaphosa said the employment of the SANDF members was in accordance with the provisions of the Defence Act.
Section 201 of the constitution requires that the president should inform parliament – promptly and in appropriate detail – of the reasons for the employment of the defence force‚ any place where the force is being employed‚ the number of people involved and the period for which the force is expected to be employed.
After the stopover‚ the aircraft will fly to Wuhan City.
“The flight will leave Wuhan City in the early hours of the morning and land back in South Africa on March 13,” said government spokesperson Phumla Williams said.