Attempt to seize SAA plane fails as man fights for payback after in-flight toilet trauma

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SAA intends to challenge the default judgement.
SAA intends to challenge the default judgement.
Silas Stein/Getty Images
  • A Zambian citizen's attempt to have bailiffs seize an SAA plane in Lusaka failed in December 2021.
  • Joseph Moyo, who suffers from disabilities, had obtained a default judgment in the Zambian High Court against SAA.
  • He claims he was traumatised when he had to relieve himself in his seat during an SAA flight in 2019.

A man with disabilities, who obtained a default judgment in Zambia against South African Airways (SAA) after he soiled himself because he could not use the bathroom on a flight, has attempted to get authorities to seize one of the airline's planes.

Joseph Moyo is a Zambian citizen and the founder and president of the charity organisation The African Woman Foundation.

While a judge granted him an order of execution against SAA, attempts by bailiffs to seize a SAA plane at the Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in Lusaka, on 20 December 2021, failed.

According to a person familiar with the case, who spoke to Fin24 on condition of anonymity, the attempt to seize and clamp the SAA plane failed due to "interference" by the Zambian airports company. The airport management declined to comment and referred Fin24 to SAA. According to the source, further attempts will be made to seize an SAA aircraft.

The bailiffs did manage to seize some SAA office equipment at the airport, including - according to a legal document seen by Fin24 - computers, a sofa, a cabinet, a water dispenser, two printers, a counter and desks.

Court documents seen by Fin24 state that Moyo, who has disabilities and uses a wheelchair, obtained a default judgment against SAA for trauma he claims he suffered during an SAA flight between Livingstone, Zambia, and Johannesburg on 3 August 2019. He  says he was accompanied by his nurse on the flight .

Moyo claims that during the flight he needed to use the toilet on board and requested the use of a so-called "slipper or aisle chair" to enable him to do so since he cannot walk or move unaided. He claims an SAA flight attendant informed him no such chair was available on board.

As a result, "pressure built up" and he had to relieve himself on his seat. He claims the events were traumatic and caused him a lot of emotional stress and pain. He further claims that, as a result of the emotional trauma, he was not able to undertake a connecting flight from Johannesburg to the US the next day and could only do so after having stayed at a hotel in Johannesburg for an additional three days.

He also claims that, upon his return from the US on 26 August 2019, SAA lost a bag containing a medical machine. He claims SAA has indicated in a letter to him that the airline was not responsible for the lost bag.

In March 2020, when SAA was still in business rescue, effectively suspending all legal proceedings against it, Moyo was granted a default judgment against the airline by a Zambian court. An extended writ of execution relating to the court  order was used in an attempt to seize the SAA plane on 20 December 2021.

Among Moyo's claims are $7 800 (about R123 000) he claims he spent on medical expenses for psychiatric and psychological therapy after the incident; R17 000 spent on hotel bills for the 3 extra days spent in Johannesburg; 350 000 Kenyan Shillings (R49 000) for SAA's failure to provide the slipper chair and for the loss of his machine.

He is also claiming K350 000 for "the violation of his constitutional rights" and $2 040 for therapy due to the loss of the pain machine. Furthermore, he is claiming damages for emotional stress (K350 000) and compensation for inconvenience caused (K10 000).

SAA responded that it has received a default judgment and an execution order relating to one of its aircraft. SAA said it has succeeded in obtaining a stay of execution of the court order. Furthermore, it intends to challenge the default judgement.

Asked for comment on the incident involving Moyo, SAA responded that the matter is sub judice and details of the creditor cannot be disclosed. SAA says it did not change its schedule to Lusaka due to the judgment. It currently offers four frequencies per week between Johannesburg and Lusaka. SAA also says the judgment does not specify a particular aircraft.

SAA was in business rescue from December 2019 to April 2021. It started domestic commercial flights again on 23 September 2021. SAA stopped commercial flights in May 2021 when the rescue practitioners indicated that there were insufficient funds to continue with commercial operations.

Due diligence of SAA's chosen strategic equity partner, the Takatso consortium, is still under way. It is anticipated that the consortium, consisting of Global Aviation, which operates low-cost airline LIFT, and African infrastructure investment company Harith, will have to invest about R3 billion in SAA over a three-year period.

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