Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

The Chinese government will foot the bill for a group of 51 South Africans to return home‚ after they unwittingly became embroiled in a probe into their visas.

"Good news is an understatement. We are ecstatic‚" Charl Venter‚ a parent of one of the children‚ told TimesLIVE on Friday. "They will be flying back in groups of three from [Monday] at the full cost of the Chinese government."

The group had been kept in China pending a court case against a Chinese agent who allegedly lured them to the foreign country with a promise of lucrative teaching jobs. He‚ however‚ allegedly did not disclose to the group the type of qualifications they needed and instead helped them get student visas — despite the fact that they were going to be working in China.

"Their written testimonies will be taken and the authorities have gone to the schools [where the group was to have been teaching] and corroborated their statements‚" said Venter, adding that their written statements would be sufficient and the group would not be needed to testify before a court.

The Department of International Relations and Co-operation had, on Thursday, announced it was intervening and doing all it could to ensure the safe return of the young South Africans‚ some of which have been in China since June 2017.

International Relations and Co-operation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said Police Minister Bheki Cele and Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba had been roped in to assist.

Sisulu’s office said the group had gone to China with the hope of being employed as English teachers. "The promise was that they would get their work visas on arrival in the country‚ which never materialised. While in China on study visas‚ they started working‚ which was in contravention of the immigration laws of the Republic of China."