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We had to watch on as Namibians, Zambians were evacuated from Ukraine – SA student


South African medical student Mandisa Malindisa said her peers from neighbouring countries had accommodation, hotels and flights back home booked for them.

A group of women and children
People flee Ukraine. File picture: Reuters/Lukasz Glowala

MEDICAL student Mandisa Malindisa said the group of fellow South African students she was with as they fled the bombardment in Ukraine had to follow other African students, particularly those from Zambia and Namibia, who had clear guidance and evacuation transport arranged by their countries.

“It was a bit difficult trying to get help [from the South African embassy in Ukraine] because as South Africans we did not have like an evacuation drill. We were not informed on where do we go, is there transport organised for us, we did not have any ideas of that,” Malindisa told TV channel Newzroom Africa.

She said the South African students “only got notified at the end to go towards borders but that was about it”. She added that there was no plan on what the South Africans should do once they reached the borders, amid the chaos.

“I wish we had got treatment the same like other countries did because for [us] to escape as early as we did, we had to like latch on to our neighbours, the Namibians, the Zambians, and follow them. We did not have the guidance like we wished we would have had,” she said.

Asked by veteran broadcaster Xoli Mngambi to clarify if neighbouring countries provided clear evacuation guidance to their students, Malindisa responded: “It was so beautiful. First of all, they told them which borders to go to. I know with the Zambians, they told them to go to Poland, with Namibians they told them to go to Romania. When they got to the borders, they had buses waiting for them to pick them up.

“They [students from neighbouring counties] had accommodation. Hotels for them were booked. They got their flights booked for them. I see them showing off on Instagram and I was like ‘congrats guys’. It must be nice. It was painful though.”

The fourth-year student said other South African students who fled the war in Ukraine were just months from graduation.

“Since we are here in South Africa, we are trying to reach out to other universities and the government, for them to assist us at least to do some transfers. Some are sixth-year, they were only three months away from graduation and this happened. We are trying to find a way we can at least continue our studies in South Africa, if it is possible,” she said.

Earlier on Monday, it was reported that Zimbabwe is giving two-way plane tickets to its citizens who have fled Ukraine, so they can return once it’s safe to do so. Zimbabwe has evacuated 118 students from war-torn Ukraine. Most of the students were studying medicine, engineering and economics.

The repatriation was facilitated by the Zimbabwean embassy in Moscow, Russia and the country’s mission in Berlin, Germany, reports the website University World News.com.

Nick Mangwana, Zimbabwe’s information, publicity and broadcasting services permanent secretary, said in a tweet that once citizens arrived in a third country, the government would pay for their hotel stay and buy their repatriation flight tickets.

A Zimbabwean second-year medical student in Dnipro, Ukraine, has created a WhatsApp group for African students studying in Ukraine to share information during the war, according to the University World News report.

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