Cape Town – While a South African stranded in India with stage four cancer has pleaded for help getting home, one desperate family has resorted to taking out a loan to secure a place on a repatriation flight from Thailand.
Sarita Owen from Montagu and her friend Eva-Lotta Lof, from Swellendam, flew to India at the start of March and were expecting to fly back later that same month, before lockdown interrupted their plans.
Lof has cancer, and Owen said they were desperate to get home.
“My friend needs chemotherapy medicine, which we have not been able to get despite help from an NGO. Now an Israeli NGO is looking into it. We are pleading for the airport to open for us. It’s us, the citizens of the country who want to come home,” she said.
Owen said they had been in contact with the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco).
Dirco spokesperson Lunga Ngqengelele did not respond to questions regarding Lof and Owen in India, and instead said the department had facilitated the repatriation by air of more than 3 000 South Africans stranded abroad, and hundreds of others had returned through land borders.
He said they were doing all they could to get everyone home.
Kirsty Robinson, her husband and two children will be one of the families repatriated on Friday as Dirco facilitates flights for 600 South Africans from the Middle East and Asian countries.
She said they had to take out a loan to pay for the airline tickets that cost R60 400 in total. She said the tickets were R15100 a person.
“We have purchased tickets for the flights. I stand to be corrected, but I think there were 295 seats available, and by midday yesterday there were only 68 seats remaining. We are patiently waiting for Friday morning when we can finally begin our long-awaited journey back home.”
Robinson said they were relieved and very excited to be going home after being stranded since last month.
“We’re preparing mentally for the 14 days of quarantine. We’re unsure of what the conditions will be as we have two young kids that possibly will not be able to run outside, etc, but it’s really the least of our worries at this stage as we are just glad to be able to return home.”
Theresa Rossouw, who is stranded in Myanmar, said she and her friends would miss the flight because the borders to Thailand were closed.
Others would miss the flight because their loan applications were denied.
“With the loans, they uploaded the application forms, and I think they looked at credit scores to see if you would be able to repay it. Some of the guys have been rejected.”
She said she was disappointed that they were still stranded indefinitely and were still waiting for feedback.
“We are currently waiting for the embassy to get back to us with a plan for us.”
The South African embassy in Bangkok said in a statement: “We are pleased to announce that the submission of loan applications and for making payments is now officially closed.
“The final list of passengers will be communicated to everyone, as well as the successful loan applications.”
By Siphokazi Vuso and Yolisa Tswanya