Press Releases

Press Releases

EXTENSION OF CLOSURE FROM 6 APRIL UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE DEPENDING ON PORTUGUESE STATE OF EMERGENCY (SOE)

NOTICE BY SA EMBASSY, LISBON: 3 APRIL 2020

As we jointly face the challenge of necessary restrictions required across the world, like in Portugal and South Africa, together with the difficulties of thousands of travellers stranded abroad and linked to concerns for our loved ones here and abroad, the SA Embassy would like to inform that it will remain closed as part of the fight against this pandemic.

In line with the Portuguese President’s announcement of their Government and Parliament’s decision on 2 April that the SOE measures will now be extended from 3 – 17 April, the Embassy Offices will thus remain closed until further notice. A  handful of dedicated South African staff members will be working from home and contactable for consular/ emergency services on the following numbers: +351 964 151 989 (emergency no); +351 969 501 605; +351 969 501 601.  DIRCO, in order to make it easier for citizens and concerned families in SA who are  unable to make contact with Missions abroad, established a 24-hour Command Centre:  +27 12 351 1754; +27 12 351 1756 and by e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

The International Relations Minister, Naledi Pandor, in a detailed briefing and statement this week on ‘stranded’ South Africans abroad said:  “We empathise with their plight and are doing whatever is within our means to assist them to be safe, as comfortable as possible and to eventually travel back to South Africa” (Please see below the full statement of what assistance and support is currently available). The first priority for those stranded in Portugal would now be to report your status and details to the contact numbers above. These are being put on a ROSA register of South Africans’ abroad, which the Embassy is compiling to DIRCO.

Please also note the daily information as published on the SA Embassy website and Facebook:
www.embaixada-africadosul.pt ; https://www.facebook.com/SAEmbassyPortugal/ ;
Please also confirm regular updates on DIRCO Website and also at the South African Government websites: http://www.dirco.gov.za/; http://www.gov.za/ ; http://www.sanews.gov.za

NB: Please be informed that the Portuguese Government has announced that they will accept visas or residence permits expired after 13.02.2020, which will be considered valid until 30.06.2020. Also please find two contacts at the Portuguese Ministry of Foreign Affairs for related requests regarding the status of foreign nationals in Portugal:

Dra. Conceição Pilar – This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.;

Dr. Ismael Macedo – This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.;


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Repeat of Statement on South Africans ‘stranded’ abroad by the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr Naledi Pandor, at the Press Briefing on South Africa’s Response to COVID-19 pandemic – 31 March 2020


The COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented and is giving rise to problems and challenges that governments across the world are struggling to deal with. Over the last two months the world has changed dramatically and this impacts on governance challenges. As DIRCO we have to focus on many fronts. The most important one is ensuring that we play our part in curtailing the spread of the virus in our population, so as to protect the most vulnerable amongst us. International travel restrictions as part of a social distancing strategies have been implemented by many countries in the world.  These travel restrictions are accompanied by national strategies that limits movements of people through lock-downs to prevent transmission of COVID-19.

This has resulted in many travellers across the world finding themselves stranded in foreign countries, including many South Africans. We empathise with their plight and are doing whatever is within our means to assist them to be safe, as comfortable as possible and to travel back to South Africa.

Our missions abroad, have been collating data of South Africans stranded at airports and cities across the world as countries implement measures aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic

The most recent data on that we have suggests that we may have 1 471 South Africans stranded across the world. Of this number, 723 are students, 204 people who are workers, 224 tourists, 320 who haven’t disclosed. I cannot say that these numbers are 100 percent accurate as it is based on people who have approached us for assistance through our missions and consular services. There may be more people in need of assistance that we do not know about yet

In order to make it easier for people, unable to make contact with the Missions abroad to contact us, my department has established a 24-hour Command Centre. The Command Centre contact details are as follows; +27 12 351 1754; +27 12 351 1756, e-mails are This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

In terms of the assistance Dirco is providing to stranded South Africans, I have directed that priority be given to those who are stranded at the airports, running out of accommodation, the elderly and the sick.

Our Missions where possible will continue to render consular services, including negotiating with the governments where there are lockdowns in order to facilitate the movement of stranded South Africans.

Given the difficulties associated with travel restrictions we appeal to those who can afford to return to do so at their own cost. Some have started organizing themselves into groups and have approached the Department to ensure their safe passage home. Others are students whose accommodation in crowded dormitories forced them to come home. Some South Africans have explored options such as arranging private charter flights to SA. This can be done in cooperation with their travel insurance companies, their sponsors or in groups with other citizens in the same country. In such cases, we have requested our Missions to assist with obtaining flight clearances for chartered flights in the host countries and to get permission to depart on such chartered flight. Some of our citizens have indicated that they are able to bring themselves home. My department will facilitate with logistics and consular services to enable them travel back safely.

For those who cannot depart, my department will be liaising with families and friends in SA to contribute to the payment for accommodation. Such funds can be transferred by Western Union or MoneyGram, commercial banks or via international EFT directly to the account of the institutions.

For the rest of the South Africans who might not be stranded or distressed, we have advised that they remain where they are to reduce movement until the end of the lockdown.

We also make a special appeal that they observe all the rules and regulations put in place by the authorities of the countries where they are in, as these are meant to curb the spread of this COVID-19 virus.

I have tasked our Missions to also determine from host countries whether the authorities can offer any assistance to foreigners stranded in the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, the issuing / extension of visas

I must take this opportunity to thank all the countries that have assisted in this regard not with only consular services but also have donated both financially as well as with other resources necessary to fight the spread of this virus.

Our Consular Services Unit in our Head Office is monitoring calls of stranded South Africans daily to ensure that they are informed all the time

We are aware of the anxiety the closure of borders must have caused to embassies. According to the WHO guidelines, countries have an obligation to ensure that the virus doesn’t spread across countries in order to stem the pandemic once and for all.

Our Missions and Head Office will continue to be in touch with all South Africans until they are comfortably reunited with their families. The Regulation require of all incoming nationals, irrespective of risk category, to undergo screening, testing and be quarantined.

Thank you

SOUTH AFRICANS STRANDED ABROAD: STATEMENT BY THE MINISTER OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION, DR NALEDI PANDOR, AT THE PRESS BRIEFING ON SOUTH AFRICA'S RESPONSE TO COVID-19 PANDEMIC– 31 MARCH 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented and is giving rise to problems and challenges that governments across the world are struggling to deal with. Over the last two months the world has changed dramatically and this impacts on governance challenges. As DIRCO we have to focus on many fronts. The most important one is ensuring that we play our part in curtailing the spread of the virus in our population, so as to protect the most vulnerable amongst us. International travel restrictions as part of a social distancing strategies have been implemented by many countries in the world.  These travel restrictions are accompanied by national strategies that limits movements of people through lock-downs to prevent transmission of COVID-19.

This has resulted in many travellers across the world finding themselves stranded in foreign countries, including many South Africans. We empathise with their plight and are doing whatever is within our means to assist them to be safe, as comfortable as possible and to travel back to South Africa.

Our missions abroad, have been collating data of South Africans stranded at airports and cities across the world as countries implement measures aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic

The most recent data on that we have suggests that we may have 1 471 South Africans stranded across the world. Of this number, 723 are students, 204 people who are workers, 224 tourists, 320 who haven’t disclosed. I cannot say that these numbers are 100 percent accurate as it is based on people who have approached us for assistance through our missions and consular services. There may be more people in need of assistance that we do not know about yet.

In order to make it easier for people, unable to make contact with the Missions abroad to contact us, my department has established a 24-hour Command Centre. The Command Centre contact details are as follows; +27 12 351 1754; +27 12 351 1756, e-mails are This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

In terms of the assistance Dirco is providing to stranded South Africans, I have directed that priority be given to those who are stranded at the airports, running out of accommodation, the elderly and the sick.

Our Missions where possible will continue to render consular services, including negotiating with the governments where there are lockdowns in order to facilitate the movement of stranded South Africans.

Given the difficulties associated with travel restrictions we appeal to those who can afford to return to do so at their own cost. Some have started organizing themselves into groups and have approached the Department to ensure their safe passage home. Others are students whose accommodation in crowded dormitories forced them to come home.

Some South Africans have explored options such as arranging private charter flights to SA. This can be done in cooperation with their travel insurance companies, their sponsors or in groups with other citizens in the same country. In such cases, we have requested our Missions to assist with obtaining flight clearances for chartered flights in the host countries and to get permission to depart on such chartered flight.

Some of our citizens have indicated that they are able to bring themselves home. My department will facilitate with logistics and consular services to enable them travel back safely.

For those who cannot depart, my department will be liaising with families and friends in SA to contribute to the payment for accommodation. Such funds can be transferred by Western Union or MoneyGram, commercial banks or via international EFT directly to the account of the institutions.

For the rest of the South Africans who might not be stranded or distressed, we have advised that they remain where they are to reduce movement until the end of the lockdown.

We also make a special appeal that they observe all the rules and regulations put in place by the authorities of the countries where they are in, as these are meant to curb the spread of this COVID-19 virus.

I have tasked our Missions to also determine from host countries whether the authorities can offer any assistance to foreigners stranded in the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, the issuing / extension of visas.

I must take this opportunity to thank all the countries that have assisted in this regard not with only consular services but also have donated both financially as well as with other resources necessary to fight the spread of this virus.

Our Consular Services Unit in our Head Office is monitoring calls of stranded South Africans daily to ensure that they are informed all the time.

We are aware of the anxiety the closure of borders must have caused to embassies. According to the WHO guidelines, countries have an obligation to ensure that the virus doesn’t spread across countries in order to stem the pandemic once and for all.

Our Missions and Head Office will continue to be in touch with all South Africans until they are comfortably reunited with their families. The Regulation require of all incoming nationals, irrespective of risk category, to undergo screening, testing and be quarantined.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

OR Tambo Building
460 Soutpansberg Road
Rietondale
Pretoria
0084

SA EMBASSY, LISBON CLOSED: 23 MARCH, RE-OPEN 6 APRIL 2020

The SA Embassy in Lisbon will close from Monday, 23 March in line with the Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa on 19 March 2020 announcing measures to implement the 15 days state of emergency in Portugal, instituted at midnight on 20 March and to last until 4 April 2020. Portugal has called for maximum restraint, including to work from home for all non-essential services to contain the spread of the virus.

The Mission will thus close from 23 March to re-open on 06 April 2020, with that date depending on any further notices or possible extension.  Mission staff will be working from home and consular services will be handled on an emergency basis as required. 

For Consular and related emergencies only, the Embassy staff can be contacted as follows:

Mobile: +351(0) 964 151 989 plus SMS

Please note the travel advisory issued this week by the Minister of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) as published on the SA Embassy website and Facebook Page, as follows:

www.embaixada-africadosul.pt;

https://www.facebook.com/SAEmbassyPortugal/;

Please confirm regular updates on DIRCO Website:

www.dirco.gov.za;

Also at the South African Government website:

www.gov.za;

DIRCO’s 24 hours Operations center is available on +27 12 351 1000.

Also please find two contacts at the Portuguese Ministry of Foreign Affairs for any issues or urgent requests regarding foreign nationals in Portugal:

Dra. Conceição Pilar – This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.;

Dr. Ismael Macedo – This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.;

NB: Please be informed that the Portuguese Government will accept visas or residence permits expired after 13.02.2020, which will be considered valid until 30.06.2020.

 

PORTUGAL EXTENDS RESIDENCE AND TOURISM VISAS TO 30 JUNE 2020

MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS

GENERAL-SECRETARIAT

State Protocol

 

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, State Protocol, presents its compliments to all the Diplomatic Missions, Consulates and International Organizations accredited to Portugal and has the honour to provide information regarding the content of Bill nº 3301-C/2020, dated 15 March, which includes extraordinary, temporary and transitory measures pertaining to citizens, within the scope of the fight against the COVID-19 virus.

Thus, the Council of Ministers decided that public authorities will accept, for all legal purposes, the presentation of documents which validity expired during the period in which the exceptional measures to fight COVID-19 are in effect or the fifteen days prior or after, namely documents and visas for remaining in national territory.  Therefore, both residence visas and tourism visas, which validity expires from the date on which Decree-Law nº 10-A/2020, of 13 February came into effect or the fifteen days immediately prior, are accepted within the same terms until 30 June 2020.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, State Protocol, avails itself of this opportunity to reiterate to the Diplomatic Missions, Consulates and International Organizations the reassurance of its highest regard.

PORTUGUESE MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS

 

 

 

 

 

 

SA INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS TRAVEL ADVISORY

The Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of the Republic of South Africa is issuing this Travel Advisory in light of the announcement on 16 March 2020 by the Government declaring a State of National Disaster. The State of National Disaster entails that restrictions on entry, movement and exit will be prescribed in Regulations to be issued by the responsible Ministers. As high- and medium-risk countries are identified and the status of countries changes, Travel Alerts will be issued to communicate such changes and the measures applicable.  For any inquiries related to this Travel Advisory, contact the 24 hours operations centre of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation at +27 12 351 1000. Information is also available on the website of the Department at www.dirco.gov.za.

 

UPDATE ON COVID-19: 18 MARCH 2020

SA SITUATION:

SA today, 18 March registered 116 confirmed cases, which is an increase of 38 cases. Of these cases two travelled from Portugal to the Western Cape.   You are urged to note and act on the SA Government’s Measures announced on 15 March 2020 as included on SAE Website and FB. The President urged South Africans to cancel all non-essential travel both internationally and nationally. There is a travel ban from high-risk countries to SA, while travellers from Portugal as a Medium Risk country at present will require to do high intensity testing on arrival.  

The SAE at present remains open but operating with limited hours until 12.30 only. Consular Services will continue but on an appointment basis only. 

TELEPHONE ENQUIRIES will be handled from 09:00 to 12:00 only on Mondays to Fridays (exluding Embassy Public Holidays) on +351 213 192 200.

AFTER HOUR EMERGENCY NUMBER:

For international and domestic calls: +351 964 151 989.

PORTUGAL SITUATION:

The Total number of people infected is 448 confirmed with 2 deaths.

Please note that the City of Ovar, +/- 250 km north of Lisbon is on lockdown after 30 cases were registered in this small town.

Are there any flight restrictions from and/or to Portugal ?

The PT Prime Minister made the following flight restrictions announcement on 17 March 2020, please note that SA and Angola are not included!

- Portugal declared that from 24h00 on 18 March, all flights to and from non-EU countries will be suspended, excluding the following countries where there are large Portuguese communities: USA, Canada, South Africa and Venezuela.  However, since the USA and Canada have banned flights from Europe, flights will only be resumed to these countries by Portugal after they have lifted their bans;

- All flights to Brazil, except to Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, are also cancelled; 

- Portugal will also maintain flights to the African Portuguese-speaking countries (Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau and São Tomé and Príncipe);

- All connections to neighbouring Spain (flights, trains and road)  are closed plus strict border control except for essential goods);

- Flights to EU countries are maintained except where those countries have closed their borders.

Update on  other measures:

- A State of Emergency is expected to be announced by the President on the evening of 18 March and taking effect as from 24H00 on 18 March, which may include lock-down.  State Council meeting is to be held this morning, followed by approval of State of Emergency in Parliament as declared by the President;

- Minister of Finance announced €9.2 billion in credit lines, 3 billion of which for most hit economic sectors, plus credit moratoriums and flexibility in payment of taxes;

- Further measures directly aimed at families to be announced later;

More information is available on the following links

World Health Organisation:

https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public

Department of Health, South Africa:

http://www.health.gov.za/index.php/outbreaks/145-corona-virus-outbreak/465-corona-virus-outbreak

 

 

 

LISBON CONSULAR: PUBLIC ATTENDANCE NOTICE 1 OF 2020

Following the outbreak of the COVID-19 in Portugal which has to date affected 331 people, the Mission Management deemed it necessary to devise a contingency plan and strategy which can assist to minimise chances of Mission Personnel being infected:

Also having had two walk-ins from people who had recently returned from Italy, the Embassy is implementing the following additional consular consulting procedures:

  1. Consular Section will attend the public after telephonic scheduled appointments only:
  2. Consular public attendance hours 09:00 to 12:00 from Mondays to Fridays (excluding Embassy Public Holidays). Members of the Public must make an appointment first.
  3. The Embassy kindly requests that visits to the Consular Section be limited to urgent matters only until this pandemic is under control.
  4. Members of the Public will also be required to answer questionnaire about their recent travels to determine the risk factor of infection.
  5. Walk-ins will not secure consular appointments.

TELEPHONE ENQUIRIES will be handled from 09:00 to12:00 only, from Mondays to Fridays (excluding Embassy Public Holidays) on +351 213 192 200.

AFTER HOURS EMERGENCY NUMBER:

For international and domestic calls: +351 964 151 989 (no visa enquiries)

 

Amb MJ Gaoretelelwe

16 March 2020

STATEMENT BY PRESIDENT CYRIL RAMAPHOSA ON MEASURES TO COMBAT COVID-19 EPIDEMIC

Fellow South Africans,

I am addressing you this evening on a matter of great national importance.

The world is facing a medical emergency far graver than what we have experienced in over a century.

The World Health Organisation has declared the coronavirus outbreak as a global pandemic. There are now more than 162 000 people who have tested positive for the coronavirus across the globe.

Given the scale and the speed at which the virus is spreading, it is now clear that no country is immune from the disease or will be spared its severe impact.

Never before in the history of our democracy has our country been confronted with such a severe situation.

From the start of the outbreak in China earlier this year, the South African government has put in place measures to screen visitors entering the country, to contain its spread and to treat those infected.

As of now, South Africa has 61 confirmed cases of people infected with the virus, and this number is expected to rise in the coming days and weeks. Initially, it was people who had travelled out of the country, especially from Italy, who had positively tested for the virus. It is concerning that we are now dealing with internal transmission of the virus.

This situation calls for an extraordinary response; there can be no half-measures. Cabinet held a special meeting earlier today. After which, due to the serious measures we are going to announce, I have consulted the premiers.

We have decided to take urgent and drastic measures to manage the disease, protect the people of our country and reduce the impact of the virus on our society and on our economy.

We have now declared a national state of disaster in terms of the Disaster Management Act.

This will enable us to have an integrated and coordinated disaster management mechanism that will focus on preventing and reducing the outbreak of this virus.

We will also be able to set up emergency, rapid and effective response systems to mitigate the severity of its impact.

Following an extensive analysis of the progression of the disease worldwide and in South Africa, Cabinet has decided on the following measures: Firstly, to limit contact between persons who may be infected and South African citizens We are imposing a travel ban on foreign nationals from high-risk countries such as Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom and China as from 18 March 2020.

We have cancelled visas to visitors from those countries from today and previously granted visas are hereby revoked. South African citizens are advised to refrain from all forms of travel to or through the European Union, United States, United Kingdom and other identified high-risk countries such as China, Iran and South Korea.

This is effective immediately. Government will continue to regularly issue travel alerts referring to specific cities, countries or regions as the situation evolves based on the risk level. Any foreign national who has visited high-risk countries in the past 20 days will be denied a visa. South African citizens returning from high-risk countries will be subjected to testing and self-isolation or quarantine on return to South Africa.

Travellers from medium-risk countries - such as Portugal, Hong Kong and Singapore - will be required to undergo high intensity screening.

All travellers who have entered South Africa from high-risk countries since mid-February will be required to present themselves for testing.

We will strengthen surveillance, screening and testing measures at OR Tambo, Cape Town and King Shaka International Airports South Africa has 72 ports of entry in the country which are land, sea and air ports. Of the 53 land ports, 35 will be shut down with effect from Monday 16 March.

2 of the 8 sea ports will be closed for passengers and crew changes.

Effective immediately, all non-essential travel for all spheres of government outside of the Republic is prohibited We further discourage all non-essential domestic travel, particularly by air, rail, taxis and bus.

Secondly, it is essential therefore that we minimize the risk of the spread of this virus by limiting contact amongst groups of people. While we appreciate the economic, religious, and cultural significance of social and community gatherings, the coronavirus is spread through contact between persons.

As we have said before, the current circumstances require extraordinary measures to curb the spread of infections. Countries that have heeded the call to implement these radical measures, have fared much better than those than do not. Therefore to encourage social distancing Cabinet has decided on these additional measures: Gatherings of more than 100 people will be prohibited.

Mass celebrations of upcoming national days such as Human Rights Day and other large government events will be cancelled. Where small gatherings are unavoidable, organisers will need to put in place stringent measures of prevention and control.

Schools will be closed from Wednesday, 18 March, and will remain closed until after the Easter Weekend. To compensate, the mid-year school holidays will be shortened by a week. Government is working closely with colleges, universities and other public facilities such as Parliament, prisons, police stations and military installations to intensify hygiene control. Visits to all correctional centres are suspended for 30 days with immediate effect.

Government is aware of the confirmed case of a student who has tested positive for the coronavirus at Wits University.

Those who have been in contact with the student will be quarantined. The Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation is consulting with vice chancellors of universities and colleges across the country and will soon be announcing measures in this regard. We call on all businesses including mining, retail, banking, farming to ensure that they take all necessary measures to intensify hygiene control.

We also call on the management of malls, entertainment centres and other places frequented by large numbers of people to bolster their hygiene control. Thirdly, to further strengthen our health response: Government is strengthening its surveillance and testing systems.

We are in process of identifying isolation and quarantine sites in each district and metro. Capacity is being increased at designated hospitals in all provinces.

We are also increasing the capacity of existing contact tracing processes.

We are partnering with the private sector to set up a national tracking, tracing and monitoring system of all people infected with the coronavirus and those they have been in contact with We are undertaking a mass communication campaign on good hygiene and effective prevention behaviour.

Therefore, we are calling on everyone to:

• Wash their hands frequently with soap and water or hand sanitisers for at least 20 seconds;

• • over their nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing with tissue or flexed elbow;

• • Avoid close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms. In essence, we are calling for a change of behavior amongst all South Africans.

We must minimise physical contact with other people, and, encourage the elbow greeting rather than shaking hands. Because of the severity of this virus and its rapid spreading, government will make funding available to capacitate the sectors dealing with the national response to the Coronavirus outbreak.

Since the outbreak of this pandemic, our government's response has been led by an Inter-Ministerial Committee, chaired by the Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize. We congratulate them on the outstanding work they have done - together with their able support teams - to steer our country through this challenging and un-certain period. As part of the intensification of this effort, we have decided to establish a National Command Council chaired by the President.

This Command Council will include, amongst others, members of the InterMinisterial Committee and will meet three times a week, to coordinate all aspects of our extraordinary emergency response. My fellow South Africans, In addition to the impact that this pandemic will have on health and wellbeing of our people, and the impact it will have on the day-to-day life of our society, COVID-19 will also have a significant and potentially lasting impact on our economy. In the last few weeks, we have seen a dramatic decline in economic activity in our major trading partners, a sudden drop in international tourism and severe instability across all global markets.

The anticipated effects of the decline in exports and tourist arrivals will be ex-acerbated by both an increase in infections and the measures we are required to take to contain the spread of the disease.

This will have a potentially severe impact on production, the viability of businesses, job retention and job creation. Cabinet is therefore in the process of finalising a comprehensive package of interventions to mitigate the expected impact of COVID-19 on our economy. This package, which will consist of various fiscal and other measures, will be concluded following consultation with business, labour and other relevant institutions. It is clear that this disease will be extremely disruptive.

Our priority must be to safeguard the health and well-being of all South Africans, to minimise the number of infections and to ensure all those infected get proper treatment. While we are battling a contagious virus, perhaps the greatest dangers to our country at this time are fear and ignorance.

We must appreciate the extent of the threat that this disease presents, we must accept the anxiety that it causes, but we cannot allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by fear and panic. We should stop spreading fake and unverified news and create further apprehension and alarm.

While we are facing a medical emergency far graver than we have experienced in recent times, we are not helpless. We have the knowledge, the means and the resources to fight this disease. If we act swiftly, with purpose and collectively we can limit the effects of the coronavirus on our people and our country.

Although we may be limiting physical contact, this epidemic has the potential to bring us closer together. We are responding as a united nation to a common threat. This national emergency demands cooperation, collaboration and common action. More than that, it requires solidarity, understanding and compassion.

Those who have resources, those who are healthy, need to assist those who are in need and who are vulnerable. All the institutions of the state will be mobilised to lead this effort, but, if we are to succeed, every company, trade union, NGO, university, college, school, religious group and taxi association will need to play its part. We thank those people who suspected they may have been exposed to the virus for coming forward to be tested and for taking measures - such as self-isolation - to prevent further transmission. We thank the medical teams around the country who are leading our response and are putting the well-being of others ahead of the risks they face themselves. On Saturday we welcomed 104 of our compatriots who were in Wuhan City, China.

We thank the repatriation team for the task they performed with pride and efficiency to return them to the country and ultimately to their families. The repatriation has been successful and those who have returned have settled in the quarantine area. We thank the military health officials, pilots, cabin crew and all those who participated in this exercise. We thank the leadership and the people of Polokwane and Limpopo for warmly welcoming our fellow South Africans.

We also extend our gratitude to the staff and management of the Ranch Hotel who have accommodated our compatriots and also subjected themselves to quarantine. We extend our appreciation too to the companies, organisations and individuals who have taken it upon themselves to disseminate information about this virus and to raise awareness. We thank those businesses that have taken steps to protect their employees, and those unions that have taken steps to protect their members.

Ministers who are at the frontline of coordinating our response to this crisis will be briefing the nation tomorrow, where they will unpack details in relation to the measures we announced tonight. Fellow South Africans, this is the most definitive Thuma Mina moment for our country.

I have great trust that our people will respond positively to this call to common action. Fellow South Africans, This epidemic will pass. But it is up to us to determine how long it will last, how damaging it will be, and how long it will take our economy and our country to recover. It is true that we are facing a grave emergency. But if we act together, if we act now, and if we act decisively, we will overcome it. I thank you.

FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT - 9 MARCH 2020

 

Dear Fellow South African,

 
It is a quarter of a century since the world came together in Beijing for the landmark Fourth UN World Conference on Women, which adopted a far-reaching platform for action for the emancipation of women.

 
That was a historic moment that changed the global struggle for women’s rights and gender equality. But the question we must now ask is what progress have we made in the last 25 years?

 
As we celebrated International Women’s Day yesterday, we had to reflect on whether the lives of the women of the world have improved. Are we closer to ending patriarchy and achieving gender equality?
 
Here in South Africa, progress has been uneven.

 
We have made significant advances in improving the lives of our country’s women in the social, political and economic spheres. We have advanced the rights of women and improved their representation in nearly all spheres.

 
We have implemented policies and programmes to give practical expression to the rights of women and girls to education, to reproductive health care, to basic services, and to social support. We have several gender-responsive laws around reproductive health, sexual orientation, access to justice, customary law, and protection against domestic and sexual violence.

 
But vast discrepancies exist between the protection these laws offer and what women experience.
 
In South Africa, as in many other parts of the world, women continue to bear the brunt of poverty and unemployment. They are less likely to own a business, less likely to be employed, less likely to be promoted.

 
While the representation of women in the public service has increased dramatically over the last 25 years, we have not seen similar progress in business or academia. There are some areas where we have gone backwards; for example, nearly all directors-general in national government are men. This highlights the fact that there is still a long journey ahead, and that the gains we make can be undone unless we are vigilant and focused.

 
As South Africa assumed the chairship of the African Union last month, we placed the empowerment women firmly on the agenda of our continental body. In particular, we will dedicate this year to the economic and financial inclusion of African women.

 
During our term, we will work with other AU members states on a range of measures, such as increasing the percentage of state procurement that goes to women, and encouraging member states to reduce barriers to entry for women-owned businesses. We will work to ensure that women benefit from the opportunities that will be created by the African Continental Free Trade Area, which comes into operation this year.

 
Economic inclusion is essential not only for advancing gender equality, but in fundamentally changing the living conditions of women. It enables them to take greater control over their lives. It also makes them less vulnerable to violence, abuse and exploitation.

 
The empowerment of women also means that we need to end all forms of violence perpetrated by men against women. We are urging AU member states to ratify the ILO Convention on Violence and Harassment in the Workplace, to work to repeal discriminatory laws within five years, and standardise responses to gender-based violence.

 
Our efforts on the continent must start at home. We need to urgently address the continued economic marginalisation of South African women and their vulnerability to gender-based violence.
 
It is six months since we began implementing the Emergency Response Plan to combat gender-based violence. Though there has been demonstrable progress in key areas such as access to justice and support for victims, women and girls continue to die at the hands of men.

 
We must use this year to consolidate our work around ending gender-based violence and urgently address deficiencies and shortcomings. We must address with equal vigour the issue of economic opportunities for women. We must strengthen existing mechanisms and frameworks to support women in economic activity, and ensure that new pathways are opened up.

 
The women of South Africa and of the continent must be liberated from the shackles of patriarchy and oppression, but most of all they must be given the means to improve their material condition.
 
It is only when women have their own means, when they can earn their own income, when they have assets to call their own, when they have skills and capabilities, then they are able to fully control their destinies.

 
When we empower women in our society, what we are in effect doing, is to raise incomes and standards of living, alleviate poverty and build more stable communities. By unleashing the economic potential of women, we are unleashing the potential of our economies to grow and benefit all.

 
Investing in women’s economic empowerment sets a direct path towards gender equality, poverty eradication and inclusive economic growth. Women make enormous contributions to economies, whether in businesses, on farms, as entrepreneurs or employees or by doing unpaid care work at home. We need to ensure that they realise the full benefit of their contributions.


An entire generation has been born and grown to adulthood since the Beijing conference 25 years ago. We cannot wait another quarter century before we achieve gender equality. Let us make this the generation that achieves equality, empowerment and emancipation.

 
With best wishes,

 

President Cyril Ramaphosa