On 23rd August, the authorities in South Africa decided to impound an Air Tanzania Airbus A220 at Johannesburg OR Tambo International Airport.
The aircraft in question is an Airbus A220-300, with registration 5H-TCH, delivered to the airline in December of last year.
According to Reuters, the aircraft was seized following a court application by a retired farmer who is owed compensation by the Tanzanian government.
Roger Wakefield, of Werksmans Attorneys, said his client, an elderly farmer who asked not to be named, was owed $33 million, including interest, in compensation from the Tanzanian government after his land in the country was expropriated several decades ago. The farmer was subsequently awarded the compensation in an arbitration, he said.
Wakefield said the only way Tanzania could secure the release of the plane was if it put up security or paid the debt. The plane was chosen because there is evidence it is owned directly by the Tanzanian government, its value is commensurate with the amount owed to the farmer, who was born in Namibia, he said.
Just before the seizure, the aircraft operated flight TC208 between Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, and Johannesburg, South Africa but did not operate the return leg flight number TC209.
Following this incident Air Tanzania issued a statement on Twitter saying:
The airline’s existing fleet, which is leased from the state-run Tanzania Government Flight Agency (TGFA), includes one Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner, two Airbus A220-300 jets and four DHC Dash 8-400 aircraft. The fleet has been put under the ownership of TGFA, to avoid possible confiscations from lawsuits related to Air Tanzania’s heavily laden financial past.
This isn’t the first time that Air Tanzania has had a plane seized. In 2017 a Canadian construction firm, Stirling Civil Engineering Ltd, got a court order to seize one of the airlines new Q400 turboprop planes in Canada, before it could be delivered.
The Canadian company claimed over a lawsuit over $38 million related to a compensation ruling by the International Court of Arbitration. The Q400 was released in March 2018, after Magufuli sent the country’s prime minister and attorney general to Canada to negotiate its release.
Cover Photo by Mark Brandon