An SAA plane carrying a group of 122 South Africans who returned from coronavirus-hit Wuhan, China, arriving at the Polokwane International Airport. Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)
An SAA plane carrying a group of 122 South Africans who returned from coronavirus-hit Wuhan, China, arriving at the Polokwane International Airport. Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)

Mission to repatriate SA citizens from coronavirus-hit Wuhan a resounding success

By Phumla Williams Time of article published Mar 18, 2020

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“Go with speed, with God and bring our children back home. Thank you very much for having taken on this mission.”

These were the words of President Cyril Ramaphosa ahead of the departure of the mission to bring our citizens home from the city of Wuhan in the People’s Republic of China last week.

The South Africans were under lockdown in Wuhan following the outbreak of Covid-19.

The brave souls who stepped onto the aircraft carried the hopes and good wishes of our nation with them

On board the SAA flight, we had a proudly South African cabin crew together with 15 officials from the Department of Health and the South African Military Health Service.

These brave men and women are truly the pride of the nation.

Officials from the departments of health and defence who were sent to Wuhan to repatriate 121 South Africans from the epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic. The picture of the team was shared on Twitter by Health Minister Zweli Mkhize.

The SANDF had since 1994 served our nation with dedication both at home and abroad.

They have taken all the assignments with a sense of patriotism to serve their country and its citizens with dedication. Our defence force is the last line of defence for our sovereignty and people.

The values and ethos we crafted in our new SANDF after attaining freedom and democracy in 1994, took cue from the constitution of the Republic of South Africa of 1996.

What was once an instrument of fear was turned into a vehicle of national pride associated with fighting for peace and defending the defenceless.

The draconian apartheid national conscription system of recruiting young people for two-year military services was scrapped. Today our SANDF, comprises men and women who joined the force out of their passion to protect and serve.

Every day they stand ready to counter any threat to our national security and provide humanitarian assistance to the country and the continent. South Africa is today one of the countries respected internationally for contributing towards conflict resolutions and advancing peace and security in our continent. The SANDF forms part of these interventions.

Soldiers and police guard the entrance to The Ranch where repatriated South Africans from Wuhan China are being held in quarantine near Polokwane. Picture: AP

Our own has shown us first-hand the devastating effects of war, conflicts and divisions.

While the former defence force, prior to 1994, was an instrument of fear and oppression, with people associating its uniform with terror, our new defence force carried the legacy of our first troops who ventured into the continent for UN and AU peacekeeping missions.

Given the high standard of training and level of our medical expertise, there was no doubt that the Wuhan mission would be successful. All those who participated in this operation, including the airline crew and staff at the Ranch Resort near Polokwane, will remain quarantined for a minimum of 14 days.

Whilst the world remains on high alert, as a country we have taken decisive steps to curb its spread. On Sunday, the president announced measures to curb the Covid-19. These included imposing a travel ban on foreign nationals from high-risk countries. Gatherings of more than 100 people will also be prohibited.

As a resilient nation, we remain confident that we will work together to conquer this pandemic.

* Williams is the GCIS Acting Director-General

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL.

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