SARS official at KMI Airport 'yells' at Virgin's Branson

2015-11-13 19:16
Richard Branson.

Richard Branson.

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Mpumalanga - The Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (KMIA) has expressed disappointment with a South African Revenue Services (SARS) customs official who yelled at Virgin Airlines boss Sir Richard Branson this week.

On Friday, KMIA managing director, Marius Nel, confirmed Branson had failed to check in at the customs desk following his arrival at the airport on November 8. He said while Branson was wrong, the official should not have yelled at him the way he did.

"All I can say is that we are very disappointed with the manner in which [the official] communicated the matter to Mr Branson and his companions/crew. We will never insist that regulations... be bent to accommodate any specific individual, but if the matter was handled in a 'Batho Pele' manner, I am sure that there would not have been any serious complaints," said Nel.

Nel said it wasn't the first time that KMIA had handled similar situations, but insisted they did so courteously.

"We have been reacting to complaints in respect of service delivery at KMI Airport in the same way that we will be reacting to this one: A thorough investigation is in process and a full report will be provided to me during the course of next week, subsequent to which, appropriate and remedial action will be taken," he said.

SARS confirms incident

The director added that the official was in the employ of SARS, which would make it difficult for the airport to deal with the matter.

"As such, [he is] not employed by KMI Airport, otherwise the process of investigation and appropriate action would probably have been completed by now," he said.

SARS spokesperson Sandile Memela also confirmed the incident in a statement. Memela said Branson was in the company of four passengers and three crew members when the incident occurred.

"Branson and a small group of fellow travellers failed to check in at the customs desk following their arrival at the Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport. This was observed by SARS customs official, Mr Johannes Mahlangu, who immediately accosted the group and summoned them back to the customs desk as they were sauntering to their aircraft through the arrival doors.

"Mahlangu was responsible for the customs clearing of international arrivals at the [airport]. He informed the group of travellers, who initially did not report to the customs desk, of a R2 000 penalty after he had earlier seen them returning to their aircraft through the arrivals door," said Memela.

Standard procedure

The spokesperson added that Mahlangu had acted in accordance with standard procedure.

"In terms of Sec 15(1) of the Customs and Excise Act, arriving international guests are expected to immediately report to customs. Failure to do so, may result in a penalty of R2 000 being levied against a transgressor... However, on the spot investigations soon revealed that the Branson entourage were not informed of the need to report to the customs desk.

"They immediately co-operated with Mr Mahlangu’s instructions to report to the customs desk. Much as the R2 000 penalty was initially imposed, it was withdrawn when it was established the other airport authorities did not direct them to customs desk. SARS wishes to emphasise that Mr Mahlangu was carrying out his duties as stipulated by the legislative framework," he said.

Memela said while SARS acknowledged that the incident may have embarrassed or inconvenienced Branson and his entourage, "we hold the belief that enforcement of the law is for the good of the country and its reputation".

"It is important to note that all SARS officials are governed by a strict code of behaviour compelling them to treat clients with dignity and respect... We truly believe no visitors should be made to feel disrespected. With regards to the incident at KMIA, SARS has however not received an official complaint."

Read more on:    sars  |  richard branson  |  mbombela

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