Blind man claims he was ill-treated at OR Tambo

Durban – Hanif Kruger, a 37-year-old blind man from Centurion says every time he is stopped and questioned, he is reminded of apartheid’s dompas system.

While it is not about race, he says he can relate when he is asked to produce documents for him and his guide dog Orli, an 8-year-old Golden Retriever.

Kruger said a recent incident at the OR Tambo International Airport left him embarrassed and humiliated after he almost missed his flight because he was stopped and asked to produce documents.

Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) has since said it was aware of the incident and had tried to contact Kruger to establish what had happened.

On Friday, November 27, Kruger said he arrived at the airport at about 05:45 for his 06:30 flight to Cape Town, where he was presenting a workshop on diversity training.

"I presented our documents at the check-in counter and everything was fine."

Kruger said he was accompanied by a colleague who he had met at the airport that day.

"When we got to the security checkpoint, a person stopped me and called the supervisor after seeing Orli. The supervisor came and addressed my colleague, asking about the dog.”

Kruger claimed he kindly asked the supervisor to address him directly as he could hear everything he was saying.

"I asked him to identify himself and he ignored me and demanded Orli’s documents."

'Stop being clever'

Kruger said he took out his documents and his cellphone and started recording the incident and the manager told him he was prohibited from doing so.

"He then told me that he could keep me behind and make life very difficult for me. I told him that what he was doing to me was like the dompas system and he told me that I was insulting him."

Kruger said the situation became overwhelming because he was late for his flight and had made his colleague late.

"I was humiliated, and at this stage I just wanted to go back home..."

Kruger claimed he asked on more than one occasion why he had been stopped.

"I have been flying with Kulula for the past 10 years and this has never happened to me."

Kruger claimed, at some point during the incident, the supervisor told him to "stop being clever".

He said the supervisor took his documents and returned and told him to proceed.

"When I was leaving, I told him it was because of people like him that made it difficult for people like me to have hope in the future of this country.

"He told me that it was people like me who made it difficult for people like him to have hope in South Africa."

'This happens everywhere'

Kruger said the incident was not unusual.

"For me, this reflects the attitudes of some South Africans towards people living with disabilities. This happens everywhere - at banks, taxis and restaurants."

Kruger said he just wanted to be treated with respect.

In a written response, Acsa said: "Passengers requiring special assistance and facilitation through the airport as a result of disability… are required to make advanced arrangements with their airline ahead of date and time of travel.

"The airline will notify [Acsa's] security department of such arrangements [and] ensure that the passenger is processed smoothly and with the dignity they deserve."

Regarding the alleged ill-treatment at the hands of one of its staff, Acsa said: "Necessary corrective action will be taken should these allegations be proven… We do not condone discriminatory behaviour in any form… Our staff are sensitised and trained to professionally assist and facilitate passengers from all walks of life."

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