Coronavirus: Kiwi's mother stranded in South Africa 'frustrated' by lack of Government help

Cape Town, South Africa, where Sylvia Drew is stranded.
Cape Town, South Africa, where Sylvia Drew is stranded. Photo credit: Getty Images

The daughter of a New Zealander who's stranded in South Africa claims the Government hasn't been helpful in trying to get her mother home.

Nicola Drew's mother Sylvia Drew was on a two-week holiday in Cape Town when the COVID-19 pandemic escalated globally. She was meant to fly back to New Zealand on March 30, but her flight was cancelled by the airline.

Nicola told Newshub it's been "frustrating" trying to contact various government agencies to get border and immigration information so she can purchase return plane tickets for her mother.

"There's no help to be had, and that's the frustrating thing. We'll do whatever we can, but there is no help out there.

"We're not a bottomless pit. I can't afford to take a gamble if we don't know if the borders will open or what the situation is."

Nicola says she's called the MFAT crisis centre, Immigration NZ and SafeTravel, but "no information" has been given to her. She also claims no updates have been coming through the SafeTravel website.

"What do you do? We have to pay if flights become available, but there's no guarantee that the flights will fly, that's the problem."

She says the issue has been that flights aren't sure whether they can depart or land at their destination, so booking any return tickets is a gamble.

"It's not a money thing, but if you're throwing $3000 on a gamble each time, that's a lot of money. That's how much her one-way flights will be back.

"My dad's retired, my mum's retired, they haven't budgeted for this eventuality. They're not the gambling people, so we have to gamble on the off-chance that one of these airlines will come through for us."

She wants there to be collaboration between Australia and New Zealand to try and get residents of those countries home.

"They need to open the borders and give permission for the flights to start going before we can actually make any plans. But then we run the risk of if we wait until we get definitive answers, there won't be any flights available. Everybody's going to jump on those flights. It's really horrific."

Nicola says she isn't looking for a "free ride" for her mother back to New Zealand, she just wants information and border help from the Government so she can book her a flight home.

"We're just looking for an opportunity, that's all we want. But not only is there no information, there's also no hope.

"We're not looking at the long-term, we're just looking to the end of April and the beginning of May, and then we'll reassess. If the borders are closed for six months, that will destroy us, and more importantly, it will destroy my mum. So we have to take it one step at a time."

MFAT said in a statement that the New Zealand High Commission in Pretoria is providing assistance to a number of New Zealanders in South Africa and other accredited regions including Angola, Zambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Namibia.

It is also in "constant contact" with other consular counterparts in other countries so they can share information and, where possible, work together on solutions to help out New Zealand nationals.

"The situation globally is increasingly difficult to navigate, as many countries close their borders and restrict the ability for travellers to transit through their countries, and commercial airlines reduce their flight schedules," MFAT said.

MFAT recommends, where available, New Zealanders overseas book commercial flights home. Otherwise, they should remain in the country they're currently in and seek appropriate shelter.

"We understand how upsetting it is for New Zealanders stranded overseas, and the stresses that many Kiwis and their family and friends are facing. Although it is increasingly difficult to return to New Zealand, the Government remains committed to helping New Zealanders overseas."

MFAT encourages all New Zealanders currently overseas to register on SafeTravel and to keep checking the SafeTravel website for information.

New Zealanders in need of urgent consular assistance should contact +64 99 20 20 20.