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SA lockdown: Dream holiday became a living nightmare

Stacey Peacock, her husband and daughter are stranded in Kuta, Bali in Indonesia with no hope of returning home soon. They left Carletonville for their dream holiday, that was booked, planned and paid for months before Covid-19 became a pandemic, on 17 March. The plan was to return on 28 March. Then their flight was cancelled…

In an email to Vaalweekblad, Stacey says: “The worst feeling in the world is knowing that we saved up for a family holiday that ended up being a nightmare. Our daughter has lost her smile. Quite ironic, we didn’t want to lose the money we paid for on the holiday and that’s why we came. Our travel agent insisted that it was safe to travel and that we should enjoy ourselves. We have spent close to triple that on extra flights, accommodation and food just to survive now. We are running low on finances, hope and sanity.”

They have been in Bali for over a month now on a budget planned for 10 days.  Although they are staying in a hotel in Kuta where they have managed to negotiate a discounted rate, they have forfeited all the luxuries of staying at a hotel. They are just “renting the room”.

She describes the days to be long and tiring. “We are 6 hours ahead of South Africa, so we are constantly fighting the time difference. Communication with government is a challenge as by the time South Africa gets going, we are on our way to bed. We are also experiencing difficulties of not being able to find decent food (life is extremely expensive here and due to the Rand weakening we are drowning). Most places have closed. We are living on a student budget and a typical meal would consist of two-minute noodles as that’s the cheapest right now. We find ourselves desperate to stay sane. We are trying to self-isolate to stay healthy, so we spend our days watching TV and playing Uno.”

To make matters even worse, they are now feeling unwelcome in Bali as the locals are starting to treat them badly. The South Africans are not allowed to sit down and have meals in local restaurants, because the locals fear that they will get the Coronavirus from them. “They move to the opposite side of the road if they see us in the streets and are now blaming us for bringing the virus to their island. It’s really unpleasant,” Stacey said.

The Peacocks’ only ray of light is Pastor Norman from Broken Wings Ministries who is also from South Africa and currently stranded in Bali. He gives a small service every Sunday and Stacey says they have grown to enjoy this.

According to Stacey there are 137 South Africans stranded in Bali who are desperately trying to get home. “We were told to charter a flight by The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) and the Minister of Transport, which is impossible as none of us have hundreds of thousands of Rands per family to pay for that. 85 of the 137 stranded in Bali have paid for tickets with Qatar and yet we still can’t get home.”

“The DA’s shadow minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Darren Bergman, has set up a support group for South Africans stranded all over the world. We all have designated WhatsApp groups where information is shared according to the country you are stranded in. Darren and his team have been extremely helpful. They have a group on Facebook called, Home away from Home, where they actively and persistently work to get answers and get people home”, she wrote. “Our plea for help is for the government to either send a repatriation flight for us (we aren’t asking for freebees) or to open up airspace and allow us to fly home using the tickets we have paid for at triple the price they normally go for due to the crisis at hand,” Stacey concluded.

What is DIRCO doing about the situation?

In a newsletter on the repatriation of South African Citizens that was published on the DIRCO website dated 19 April 2020, Minister Naledi Pandor was quoted to have said: “We are aware of the 34 South Africans stranded in Lima, Peru. Through our Ambassador in Peru, we are in regular contact with the group and all efforts are being made to try to get them back home.  A further 307 citizens are stranded in Thailand as well as about 140 in Bali, Indonesia. Through our missions in these countries, we are trying to find solutions to bring them home.”

The Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Naledi Pandor said on Thursday, 16 April 2020, that it was the government’s duty to ensure that South Africans who were stuck overseas were brought back home. “As the department, in terms of international law, DIRCO has the responsibility to provide assistance to South Africans [who] are in distress outside our borders. We have not neglected the individuals [who] have approached us, and said, ‘Please help’,” said the minister. “All countries are in lockdown — it’s not a matter of saying ‘I want to come back’, and it happens tomorrow — we have to negotiate,” said the minister, adding that the department has to ensure that people who return know that they will be subjected to a 14-day quarantine.

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