Parliament, Thursdy, 4 June 2020 – The Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation has called on the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) to ensure that no South African is stranded abroad.

The committee has called on Dirco to urgently attend to the matter of the Eastern Cape’s medical student, Mr Sibusiso Qongqo, who sadly passed on in Cuba. Dirco indicated that there were challenges related to flights from Cuba because of travel restrictions imposed worldwide due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The Department said it was negotiating with all those that are concerned to have Qongqo’s remains repatriated.

The committee emphasised that all the necessary measures should be put in place to ensure that Qongqo’s remains are accordingly brought back to South Africa and to his family for a dignified burial.

The Chairperson of the committee, Ms Tandi Mahambehlala, directed that the Department should provide weekly updates on the matter. She said the committee was satisfied with the work DIRCO has been doing during the period of COVID-19. However, she called for more efforts to ensure that all the distressed, destitute and stranded citizens abroad are assisted.

The committee had noted that South African Missions have been at the forefront of the crisis and are offering consular services to South Africans who are in desperation and in fear abroad.

Ms Mahambehlala had observed how multilateral diplomacy under the pandemic was increasingly becoming undermined and under threat from countries that adopt nationalistic approaches and responses to the global pandemic.

Ms Mahambehlala said it is only the international solidarity and collective multilateral response will be effective because no country can address a global challenge of the magnitude of the COVID-19 crisis on its own.

The committee heard that the COVID-19 has impacted upon all that the international community had achieved even before the era of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and has reversed the African Union’s (AU’s) Agenda 2063 driven socioeconomic development trajectory.

The committee applauded President Cyril Ramaphosa, as the Chairperson of the AU, for spearheading a number of initiatives under the AU umbrella to deal with the serious consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on the African continent. Among those initiatives, President Ramaphosa has appointed special envoys to solicit financial support for the continent’s efforts from G20 countries, international organizations and donor communities as well as African business communities to support the African countries in dealing with the effects of the COVID-pandemic.

The committee stressed that the assistance should continue in the region to ensure that the impact of COVID-19 is minimised especially in countries where it is anticipated that their healthcare systems would be overwhelmed.

The committee commended South Africa for remaining as a voice of reason in the United Nation’s Security Council, and called for the continuation of that voice as a building block of peace, an interlocutor and a promoter of the everlasting solution within the divided UN Security Council.

As a gesture of international solidarity, the committee sent condolences to the family of the murdered Mr George Floyd whose death sparked international protests. Ms Mahambehlala called on members of the committee to support the ‘Black Lives Matter’ campaign.


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