SA citizens deny the existence

South African citizens have denied DIRCO’s claims that a group in which the Shanghai consulate’s staff talks to citizens directly exists. Photo: Screenshot / Pexels.

SA citizens deny the existence of Shanghai consulate’s chat group

A group of South Africans subjected to extreme lockdown conditions in Shanghai say DIRCO ‘aren’t doing enough’ to help them.

SA citizens deny the existence

South African citizens have denied DIRCO’s claims that a group in which the Shanghai consulate’s staff talks to citizens directly exists. Photo: Screenshot / Pexels.

At least 17 people have died of COVID-19 in Shanghai, China. The first deaths were reported on Monday, 18 April and the majority of the city’s 25 million residents have been under an extreme lockdown for the last four weeks.

A group of South Africans living in Shanghai feels that the SA Consulate in the city and the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) are not doing enough to support citizens.



On Tuesday, 19 April, The South African sent queries to the consulate and DIRCO about the alleged death of a South African woman in Shanghai along with questions about the reports of citizens who are unable to access food, water and basic necessities” and a petition that seeks urgent consular intervention and a “a clear line of contact for South African Citizens to get in touch with the Consulate or Embassy for individuals confirmed positive.”

The next afternoon, 20 April, Clayson Monyela, the DIRCO spokesperson and Head of Public Diplomacy, responded to the questions via a telephone call.

Monyela confirmed that Noma Blackie, a South African teacher at a Shanghai school, recently passed away. He said the family had been informed and that the matter was being attended to, but he could not divulge any of the details of her passing.

Monyela, however, denied claims that South Africans cannot communicate with the Consulate-General.

As previously reported, he said, everyone, including the Consul-General Mpho Hlahla and her staff, was affected by the lockdown.

“They themselves are also under a hard lockdown so the expectation that they can provide services from the consulate – I don’t know where that comes from because they are unable to move from where they live. They are trying to work from home under these strict lockdown conditions. That’s why the Consul General has established this WeChat group to communicate with South Africans.”

In our initial query, The South African quoted a message signed by Hlahla that acknowledged Noma Blackie’s passing. Monyela claimed this message, which was seen by The South African in a screenshot, was posted in a WeChat group that the CG had set up to communicate with South African citizens in Shanghai.

“You are referring to a message that you saw from the CG in a WeChat group. The same platform that she uses to communicate with all of them that’s why they were able to take a screenshot and send it to you. It comes from her. So, she uses the platform to communicate information with them if she’s able to communicate. So, the idea that they don’t get information or that she’s unable to communicate – the evidence in front of you suggests otherwise,” Monyela said.

“If you want to communicate with the CG on the group where everybody is you can actually use that number to call her direct. Her mobile is in the group. Everybody who is in that group has her mobile number.”

Screenshot of group notice posted in social WeChat group.


Two South Africans in Shanghai denied the existence of such a group, in which the CG herself or consulate staff is able to communicate with them directly, on Thursday, 21 April.

The citizens – Farzeen Rashed*, a media professional, and Demi Brodie, a teacher – both said the message was posted as a group notice by one of the administrators of a social WeChat group that South African expatriates use for socialising such as organising braais or watching rugby.

The South African has also seen correspondence from one of the social groups, which showed that none of the members had any knowledge of the group Monyela was referring to.

Rashed said the consulate has an official WeChat channel, which it uses to announce consulate closures and similar messages. The channel is only used for one-way communication and citizens cannot chat with the consulate, she added.

Rashed said it is easy enough to get in touch with the consulate via email or phone but there is no guarantee of a response. Citizens are aware of an emergency number that connects them to the Vice-Consul.

“Nobody knows of this WeChat group Clayson mentioned. It seems like disinformation to me,” said Rashed.

Brodie said none of the people in the South African social groups she is a part of knows anything about the CG’s WeChat group.

“I am on two South African groups one with around 500 people and one with about 150 and no one seems to know about it

“I think someone in our group has contact with her. Actually, I don’t know who it is we just get cryptic messages from ‘someone who is close to the CG’ but I don’t know anything about that actually.”

*A pseudonym. Rashed’s real name is withheld over safety concerns.