Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula has said foreign nationals in South Africa (SA) may be repatriated to their home countries provided that the foreign country charters an aircraft to SA without passengers and on condition that the crew is not allowed to disembark.
Mbalula revealed this while announcing the amendments to the lockdown rules that will allow the cargo and transportation industry to go on with operations during lockdown. He added that in certain technical situations, some aircraft would be allowed into the country.
He said the government has decided to flex its muscles regarding the regulations to do with the bringing of goods and services into the country. Mbalula said all cargo flights would be allowed into the country for trading reasons.
“We revised the directions on cargo to permit the movement of all cargo, rather than limit this to essential cargo. It is imperative that we should be alive to the economic consequences of our directions, which include, among others, the inability of essential cargo to move due to the fact that carriers package such cargo together with general cargo to achieve the economies of scale. We have been working closely with the minister of trade and industry in this regard,” he said.
The minister's announcement comes after the government recently sent back a chartered aircraft from Zimbabwe for landing on one of its airports without approval, in direct contravention with the current lockdown protocols.
According to information by the Ministry of Transport, at around 12:30 on Wednesday 1 April 2020 a private aircraft landed without approval at Oliver Tambo International Airport from Harare, Zimbabwe with one passenger on board.
The ministry said the aircraft was not cleared by the Department of Transport as required in terms of the current protocols in force during the lockdown.
The ministry added that a decision was made that the passenger who is an Italian national with a South African passport would not be allowed to enter the country. However, it is alleged the passenger tried to resist being sent back until police had to be called to assist.
“At first the passenger resisted to leave, but with the intervention of the South African Police Service, the flight left South African airspace at around 19:50 returning to Harare, Zimbabwe,” said the ministry in a statement at that time.