'Give our jet back': protests outside SA high commission in Tanzania

An Air Tanzania aircraft has been impounded at OR Tambo International Airport in a dispute as a farmer seeks compensation from the carrier's government.
An Air Tanzania aircraft has been impounded at OR Tambo International Airport in a dispute as a farmer seeks compensation from the carrier's government.
Image: 123RF/khunaspix

"Remember we [Tanzania] sacrificed the little we had to support your [South Africa] struggle against apartheid and today you betray us?"

These were the words inked on a cardboard placard waved outside the South African high commission in Dar es Salaam on Wednesday.

Protesters had gathered there, demanding the return of an Air Tanzania passenger aircraft that was impounded at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. The Airbus was seized on August 23 by order of the Johannesburg high court, over an unsettled $33m (around R500m) compensation claim by a farmer for land which the Tanzanian government nationalised in the 80s, reported The East African.

On the land was a bean and seed farm owned by the Namibian-born farmer. Equipment, vehicles and small aircraft were seized along with the farm.

The farmer, awarded compensation in the 90s, was only partially paid out and has been fighting ever since to claw back an outstanding $16m (R245m) which, with interest, had ballooned to more than $30m.

The East African reported on Monday that the farmer was being represented in SA by Roger Wakefield of Werksmans Attorneys, who said the aircraft, worth about $90m (R1.38bn), would be released only if the Tanzanian government paid the debt or put up security for the claim.

Riot police were summoned to disperse protesters outside the South African high commission in Dar es Salaam on Wednesday.

“We want our plane back ... we want our plane back,” some shouted.

Tanzania's transport ministry said efforts were under way to secure the release of the aircraft so it could resume its normal commercial flights. 

- TimesLIVE

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