In March this year, South Africa joined almost 50 African states in signing the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (CFTA) in Kigali, Rwanda. On July 3, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) launched its Consular Services ‘Travel Smart With Dirco’ campaign, aimed at educating South Africans planning to travel abroad on the consulate services available to them.
In a keynote address on the launch of the campaign, Deputy Dirco Minister Reginah Mhaule said many South Africans found themselves destitute abroad.
“Under these circumstances they seek our assistance without prior knowledge of what services we mandated to provide. This situation must be changed and I believe that the Consular Service campaign we are launching today will enable us to do so,” said Mhaule.
As the event took place at the start of July, she said her department shared leadership values with Nelson Mandela – whose centenary celebrations have begun, and those of “selfless service” inspired by Albertina Sisulu who would have also turned 100 this year.
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“We have gathered here to launch an initiative which further express the values of Tata Madiba’ s leadership of putting our people first and as such renewing our commitment to Batho Pele principles,” she said.
The deputy minister said planned “travel smart” provincial roadshows would be rolled out during the 2018/19 financial year through various mediums to further “enhance public comprehension of what Dirco can offer in this regard”.
Steven McGowan and his father, Malcolm attended the event. Steven was held hostage for nearly six years in Mali by al-Qaeda militants. He was released on July 29 last year, following an international campaign to secure his freedom.
Mention was also made of the safe return of 49 of the 51 South Africans arrested for violating Chinese visa laws with the remaining two still in custody for serving as recruiters.
“We are of the opinion that this situation could have been avoided had necessary information been readily available for our people. As such, we urge people when travelling to do due diligence on the country they are visiting.”
South Africans are advised to educate themselves on the “financial, political, cultural and economic environment of their intended destination”, prior to boarding their outbound flight, and to learn a few key phrases of their destination country. “Even a modest command of the local language will go a long way. When travelling abroad the laws of the receiving country applies to everybody and South Africans must understand that they will not receive special treatment.”
Members of the public are encouraged to access more information on travel requirements and a list of South African representative offices in international destinations on www.dirco.gov.za.