Does the South African Embassy protect its citizens whilst abroad?
Roderick Williams, 62, cannot return home until the government of the UAE returns his passport, taken from him after he was accused of negligence relating to the death of a three-year-old child attending the private school where he served as the principal.
The child died of heat exposure inside a locked school bus last year. Williams’s passport was seized, and he has been “forbidden from returning home”.
Williams has taught at a number of schools and also served as principal of Athlone High.
He was cleared of any wrongdoing in the child’s death in May. He is now stranded – without an income since June – in Abu Dhabi without a passport or any means of making it home.
“I’m between a rock and a hard place, I’m not sure when I’ll get my passport back,” Williams told Heart FM, reaching out to breakfast show host, Aden Thomas.
He said the school’s case was still before the courts and would be heard again next month.
According to reports, Williams’s passport will only be returned to him if the school he taught at pays a fine of R500 000 to the Abu Dhabi courts.
The court will settle for a guarantee of payment, but the school owner is reportedly out of the country on holiday and is unable to take any action.
Williams said he also feared for his family.
The house they have been living in belongs to the company that owns the school and the family are expected to vacate it by the end of the month.
He said he received his last salary payment in June and now has no source of income
“We’ll probably be out on a limb,” he said.
To get help he went to the South African embassy in Abu Dhabi.
“I had a meeting with the embassy and they took all my details and ran through all the stuff that needed to be done in terms of bureaucracy.
“They told me they would take it to the highest possible level to get back my passport.”
The Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco) confirmed that it was aware of Williams’s situation and that he had had a meeting with the embassy, but they were waiting for the outcome of that meeting.