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Dirco to shed light on China arrests

Dirco will discuss the status of the five South Africans still in detention in Inner Mongolia.

Ordos Ejin Horo Airport in Inner Mongolia. Picture: Mongolia Tourism.

JOHANNESBURG - Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) is expected to shed some light on the status of the five South Africans still in detention in Inner Mongolia by Chinese authorities.

The other five people are due to arrive back in Johannesburg tomorrow.

The 10 South Africans had been on a 47-day trip through ancient China and were arrested after arriving in Inner Mongolia nearly a week ago.

There has been some confusion about whether those that remain in detention will be charged, and if so, with what.

Humanitarian organisation Gift of the Givers Foundation has been coordinating some of the communication between those detained and their families back home.

The foundation's Imtiaz Sooliman said, "It will be great news to have the five South Africans coming back, but our worry is still on the other five who have been held without any charges against them.

"And we hope that Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa is successful in securing the release of those five, especially if no charges have been brought against them and they're not criminals."

This week, Eyewitness News revealed that the group were detained on terror-related charges, which in turn have been described as 'bizarre'.

Twenty people, including British and Indian nationals were arrested on Friday.

On Wednesday Ramaphosa, who is on a state visit to Beijing, said the saga was being handled on an 'active… hour-by-hour' basis.

Ramaphosa said they're doing what they can to bring everyone home.

"The Chinese officials, as well as our Department of International Relations are dealing with the matter actively."

Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub said he's deeply concerned about the safety and well-being of his brother, aunt and uncle who are still being detained and are not part of a group of five South Africans expected back home tomorrow.

He said the family is in touch with the South African and British embassies as well as their own contacts in China.

"One would like to see it go faster but I think we're making slow progress. The key is for government to keep on the pressure on the Chinese government."

There's been no clarity on when Joosub's family members and two others are returning home or whether they'll be prosecuted onunspecified charges in China.

TERROR RELATED CHARGES

Family members those detained said allegations that they watched propaganda films in their hotel rooms could be a huge misunderstanding.

The group appears to have been accused of also having links to a terror group, but Gift of the Givers says the South Africans were on a tour of ancient China and are prominent businessmen, doctors and even an uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) veteran.

The tourists were apparently watching documentaries of Genghis Khan as part of their education to tour Inner Mongolia.

BRITONS RETURN HOME

It's since been confirmed that the six British nationals will arrive back in the United Kingdom today.

The group are likely to face huge media and diplomatic scrutiny.

The UK's foreign office confirmed to Eyewitness News that the six have now been deported by Chinese authorities but that clarification was still needed from Beijing on why China carried out the arrests.