A South African stuck in Egypt is not sure when he will be able to return home.
UPDATE: DispatchLive reports on April 20, that a flight has been organised by DIRCO to repatriate 43 South Africans from Egypt. citizens. However, it is currently unclear when this repatriation will take place.
A South African stuck in Egypt since March 21, says he is frustrated by the lack of response from the South African government and is quickly running out of money. After travelling to Luxor, Egypt, on March 14, 57 year old Joburger, Ted Loukes, was expecting to travel back home on March 21. But international travel restrictions and the closures of airports in light of the coronavirus, resulted in Loukes being stuck in Egypt along with a number of other South Africans.
A TimesLive article on April 15 indicated that there are currently 43 South Africans stuck in Egypt as a result of the national lockdown. Loukes is in Luxor with two other South Africans. Loukes is a freelance audio engineer by profession, with a passion for all things Egypt. As a second job, he conducts small (± eight people) group tours of Egypt and was on one of these tours when the travel ban was implemented. Like many other South Africans during this lockdown period, Loukes has been left without an income during his time in Egypt. “I mix audio for television programmes, record podcasts and voiceovers. Obviously I have not been able to work, and have indeed lost work due to being stuck here in Egypt. I have had no income for a month,” says Loukes.
Loukes says he has had to pay for his own accommodation during this extended stay in the country. He tells Wits Vuvuzela his money is quickly running out: “We initially stayed on in our hotel, who very kindly stayed open for us, but at the beginning of April we moved to rented rooms. This has all been paid for privately, so obviously, with no income, money is running out,” Loukes says.
A SAA repatriation flight that was scheduled to bring the South African’s home on April 14, was cancelled due to “technicalities over flight routes and landing allocations”, Loukes said in a tweet on April 12. TimesLive reported on April 15 that the South African embassy in Egypt had arranged the flight which was then cancelled. The embassy reportedly then told the tourists to pay for their own way home. “Unfortunately, it [the repatriation flight] can’t come to Egypt. The only option for citizens in Egypt is to take a charter flight to Casablanca at their own cost as the government cannot pay,” read the communication quoted by Timeslive.
“Everyone had to fill in a consent form, send passport copies and pay R7000 to an SAA account. This flight was then cancelled and to date no one has received any refund,” Loukes said.
This alternative route via Casablanca arranged by the embassy would cost the tourists to fly theUSD47000 (± R871 693) divided amongst the group of 43, says Loukes. According to Loukes, “Nobody can afford this, even divided between the 43 people stranded here”.
DIRCO is yet to reply to Wits Vuvuzela’s request for a comment on this situation. International Relations and Cooperation minister, Dr Naledi Pandor, said on April 16, that “A total of 3639 South Africans have indicated that they are stranded abroad and require assistance to return home to South Africa.” According to Pandor over 600 South Africans have successfully been repatriated to South Africa.
On his current living conditions in Luxor, Loukes, describes it as not “unpleasant”. “There is no lockdown as such in Egypt, but a strict curfew every evening. Most shops are closed Fridays and Saturdays. All hotels and restaurants are closed. There is a general consensus of no contact, however social distancing is intermittent,” says Loukes.
FEATURE IMAGE: 43 South Africans stuck in Egypt during the COVID-19 pandemic are unsure of when they will be able to return home. Photo: Pexels
- DispatchLive, South Africans still stranded in Egypt despite promise of repatriation flight, 20 April 2020.
- TimesLive, South Africans still stranded in Egypt despite promise of repatriation flight, 20 April 2020.
- TimesLive, SA citizens stuck in Egypt balk at R800,000 cost of charter flight, 15 April 2020.