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South African Government ‘dismal’ Sudan evacuation slammed

The South African government has come under fire for a perceived initial slow response to evacuate trapped South African citizens in war-torn Sudan as a unhappy Durban evacuee recounts his frustrations with how the matter was handled.

It’s safe to say “once again our Government has let us down”, these are the words uttered by Ash Ramraj, a South African evacuee when speaking to eNCA on Monday about the lackadaisical response by the government in last week’s evacuation of more than 50 stranded South Africans in war-torn Sudan, as fighting between the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and the Sudanese army forces rages in the capital, Khartoum.

You wouldn’t, however, think this was the case if you read and simply believed a tweet by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) spokesperson, Clayson Monyela as he glowingly unpacked at the weekend how the matter was handled, as seen in the tweet below.

And since then, Dirco has gone on a celebratory press victory lap. However these sentiments are not shared by Ramraj, who gives major credit to Dr  Imtiaz Sooliman of the Gift of the Givers for responding swiftly to their request for help. He alleges the South African embassy in Sudan did not communicate timeously with those trapped in the active war zone up until the 8th day into the fighting.

“The saddest story is that once again our Government has let us down. There was no clear strategy. At day 8 they contacted us to ask us where we were all are, they don’t have proper communications.”

To get to the place of safety, the stranded South African citizens, he added, were given the location and day with no assistance to getting to the meeting point. “The other challenge we had and was surreal is that a country like Sudan does not respect women. They don’t have time for women …. and you cannot speak their language. So that was a major breakdown that we had, where the ambassador has no pull,” said Ramraj in reference to the South African ambassador (and her aliases) being female. “We arrange the bus ourselves and got to the border post and it was horrendous. We had no pull. The South African ambassador wasn’t even recognised for her status you know, or anything else.”

Ramraj gives unreserved credit to the Gift of the Givers, before the SA government and here’s why.

  • Day 6, Ramraj contacts Dr Sooliman after futile efforts to get the South African authorities to respond.
  • At this point, the war tanks had moved into the City and still no communication from South African Government.
  • Contact was made by the SA government only after 8 days of fighting.

Although the government eventually responded by sending the army to assist them, Ramraj is, however, bordered that they are taking so much credit.

“Yes, they assisted getting the arm forces there, but by then we had gotten through to the border. We made other strategies, between Dr Sooliman, myself and one of the embassy guys.”

It feels like coming out from a movie scene

Ash Ramraj

Their first strategy, as he further explains, was to get to the nearest Airport and get evacuated there by the SADF, but “that didn’t work out because the armed forces weren’t there”. The next thing was to jump onto the buses which they had arranged themselves “because the ambassador’s buses had let them down”.

They then got into the buses in what he describes as a horrendous 18 hour drive. “It was absolute chaos driving through the night, it’s uncharted water. It was terrible, people were nervous, scared … with no food and the little bit of water that we could get.” (Click this eNCA YouTube link to see the rest of the interview)

However, Monyela acknowledged, as per his Twitter statement, that “evacuations like this are not easy”, and face multiple difficulties and frustrations. He confirmed that all SA nationals the department knows of are out of Sudan. “We appreciate the partnerships & collaboration of Gift of the Givers, countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia & Sudan.”

Temoso Mokoena
Temoso Mokoena
Temoso Mokoena is a tech and sneaker enthusiast who likes to stay neutral in all things.
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