SA pair left skint in Ivory Coast after embassy bungles escape plan
Forced to depend on the kindness of strangers, they say SA government gave them hope, only to let them down
A group of South Africans stranded in the Ivory Coast because of the Covid-19 lockdown have been left penniless after paying for seats on a SAA flight that never materialised.
They are among the estimated 2,000 South Africans still struggling to get home from numerous locations worldwide after the mass cancellation of flights and closure of borders.
Ryan Muller and a colleague from a SA church group arrived in the Ivory Coast capital, Abidjan, on March 15 and were supposed to be back home two weeks later. Instead they are now relying on the charity of their foreign hosts who had invited them to conduct pastoral training.
“We are staying in a town just outside Abidjan called Anyama,” Muller told Times Select via WhatsApp. “We are staying at the training compound where we did the training and are being fed by our hosts. They are also helping us with travel costs to and from the embassy and bottled water. They are paying for the electricity and data that we are using.
“Our church is also helping us financially to cover costs. Today we had to pay R2,400 for our visas to be extended, but our hosts covered transport costs and facilitated the transaction.
“Sometimes we get gifts of fruit from the pastors who just show up and bring us water as well. They have been extremely gracious and hospitable,” Muller said.
Their predicament stems largely from a mix-up over a repatriation flight from Frankfurt, Germany, that stopped in Ghana on Monday to pick up South Africans stranded there.
SA embassy staff in Abidjan initially indicated the Ivory Coast group – about 17 South Africans, including Muller and his colleague – could travel overland to Accra to board the flight. They paid for their tickets, only to be told Ghana would not allow them across the border.
It is unclear how many of the South Africans purchased tickets. Muller said the purchase depleted the last of his travelling allowance.
The department of international relations did not respond to written queries, but an e-mail last week from the embassy in Abidjan to South Africans said the flight had been confirmed.
“SAA confirmed that there will be a flight stopover in Accra on April 12 2020. The flight leaves Frankfurt at 09.25am, time of arrival in Ghana to be confirmed,” the e-mail said.
Muller has taken to social media to ask for help from friends and family in SA. In an emotional video he speaks of his sadness at missing his daughter’s 21st birthday.
“The government gave us hope that there was a flight home. We paid for our tickets,” he said. “We need government to do their job.”
Muller said he hoped to raise enough money through donations to find an alternative route home – and to buy provisions while in lockdown.
“Our church are currently trying to raise funds for us through their website to assist with costs and flights to ease the burden on our hosts,” he said.