Tanzania: Turbulence for Air Tanzania As South Africa Crisis Unfolds

Dar es Salaam — The national carrier, Air Tanzania Company Limited (ATCL), is facing yet another turbulent moment in its comeback bid after one of its jets was impounded by South African authorities at the weekend.

In a statement yesterday, the government confirmed the aircraft was seized on an order by the Gauteng High Court of South Africa on Friday.

No reason has been provided yet.

Mr Leonard Chamuriho, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Works, Transport and Communications, said the government had been informed by its ambassador in South Africa about the development.

"We are working to ensure that the plane is released immediately," said Mr Chamuriho, who later promised to give more details on Monday.

Air Tanzania also issued a statement Saturday to announce flight schedule adjustments - however, it did not link the development to the seizure of its aircraft in South Africa.

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ATCL managing director Ladislaus Matindi said yesterday it was making arrangements with other airlines to carry its passengers who were affected by the seizure of one of the airline's two Airbus A220-300 jets.

"We will ensure that all our passengers who had bought tickets travel as they had planned," he said.

Mr Matindi said whether or not ATCL would fly another plane to Johannesburg would be detemined once they cleared the air surrounding the decision by South African authorities.

"This is a legal matter, so it depends on the outcome. But we will continue serving that route."

The South African incident becomes the second such misfortune to befall Tanzanian aircraft abroad after a Canadian construction firm, Stirling Civil Engineering Ltd, seized one of the government's new Q400 turbo-prop planes in 2017 over a $38 million lawsuit. The aircraft was impounded before it had been delivered.

President John Magufuli - who has personally taken charge of the national airline by purchasing eight new planes since 2016 - intervened and the Canadian authorities released the Q400 in March 2018.

But this is not the first time that the resurgent Air Tanzania has faced trouble in South Africa.

Last month, a delegation from the national carrier was turned away at the Oliver Tambo International Airport on its inaugural flight to Johannesburg.

Mr Matindi blamed "miscommunication" between the airport and immigration officials for the hitch that saw him, Works, Transport and Communication deputy minister Elias Kwandikwa, other ATCL officials and journalists were denied entry into the airport for a welcome ceremony.

The ATCL boss was, however, quick to dismiss any link between the two misfortunes at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.

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