- Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has denied claims that SANDF members are refusing to travel to China
- This comes after a Mail & Guardian report that those meant to partake in a mission to repatriate South Africans raised concerns over the coronavirus
- The aircraft set to return the South Africans from overseas was reportedly unmanned
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Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has denied a report that South African National Defence Force members are refusing to travel to China.
Mail & Guardian reported that the members were declining to take part in the operation to bring the citizens home in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak.
A source close to the operation claimed that the SANDF officials were refusing to man the aircraft allocated to the operation over fear for their health.
SABC spoke to Mkhize who said that he had been aware of this report and had spoken to the chief of the army, General Solly Shoke, who had not known of any snags in the mission:
“Let me hasten to add that such a fear would be unnecessary because all over the world people are dealing with the issue of the coronavirus and are treating it at the moment and more people have been treated and released. So the fear is unfounded but we will not be able to talk much about it because the SANDF, the chief of the army and the Minister have not said anything to us about it."
READ ALSO: Mission to repatriate citizens in China hits snag: SANDF 'unwilling'
IOL reports that SANDF spokesperson Simphiwe Dlamini has also denied the claims:
"There is no truth whatsoever about the story in the Mail and Guardian. We have been hard at work since day one with the logistics around this mission. We as the SANDF have been at the forefront in planning this operation."
Briefly.co.za reported that President Cyril Ramaphosa had confirmed that a budget of R25 million had been allocated to the relocation of the South Africans.
Mkhize insists that the soldiers have no reason to be afraid during the operation that is set to take place in the next few days.
This comes after the minister announced the first confirmed case of the coronavirus. A 38-year-old man from the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands had contracted the disease while holidaying in Italy.
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