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Saturday, January 24, 2009

An eyewitness account of bribery and corruption at the O.R. Tambo International Airport, JHB.


On the eve of 23 January I dropped my son off at the Johannesburg International Airport (new name: O.R. Tambo), parked the car and returned to say my final farewells at the international departure section. The departure hall was in utter chaos at the time. Their simply wasn’t enough room for everyone, as no provision was made for family members and friends coming to greet passengers. Several anxious travelers, with overweight luggage, were sitting on the floor frantically unpacking and transferring goods to their hand-luggage. I soon learned that my son’s luggage was a hefty 12kg’s overweight and there simply wasn’t enough room in his hand-luggage. The officials demanded that he pay R410.00 for every 1 kg over weight. That calculated to a whopping R4,920.00. I larger carry-bag was purchased from the CNA in haste but that didn’t help much to reduce the weight in his main luggage. Eventually, when the time started running out and the officials were adamantly demanding payment, -- either that, or the removal of luggage from the main bag, my son, who by then was in a rather frantic state of panic and indecisive about what items to keep and what to take out, switched to speaking a broken version of the Xhosa dialect to the two black officials. He suddenly dashed off to draw his last R1,500.00 --- slipped the money on the floor behind the pedestal were the airport official was standing and was let through with overweight luggage, broad smiles – and all! By then we only had a few seconds left to say our final farewells before he had to dash off again to the passport control section. I later learned that several other passengers with overweight luggage were also tempted by the same officials (two black ladies) to pay bribes.
What can I say, besides the fact that ---
THIS IS AFRICA!

Click here to read my previous posting about the South African Airway’s involvement in drug smuggling, dating back to the year 2000.

COMMENTS REGARDING THIS SPECIFIC ARTICLE ARE NOW CLOSED!

23 comments :

Anonymous said... .....Click here to refresh this blog

I experienced a similar problem last year september. My luggage was checked on 2 scales at home, but was found to be 6kg overweight at the airport. I complained bitterly and refused to pay. Most people just pay up to avoid delays.

Tia Mysoa said... .....Click here to refresh this blog

I've just read a businesswoman's complaint regarding the same issue. I quote from http://mybroadband.co.za/vb/showthread.php?t=90605 :--
"She believes she was made to pay more than R1 000 as an excess baggage penalty at Johannesburg's OR Tambo airport - not because her suitcase was too heavy, but because South African Airways' scale was "overweighing" by about 6kg."

Anonymous said... .....Click here to refresh this blog

I had the same thing happen to me on Sunday night when I left Johannesburg. But my sister and I are taking this further. I have reported the problem to British Airways in the UK and my sister has done the same in Johannesburg.
I hope they are able to stop this corruption quickly.

Anonymous said... .....Click here to refresh this blog

Anonymous with son. First dispell any concerns you may have about R4920 for excess baggage of 12kg. Wherever you fly in the world excess baggage costs a fortune - not just in SA! The reason? Well you can't keep adding more and more weight to an aircraft - there comes a point where it's not able to lift or fly safely if it does lift. Why was your son not obeying the rules on baggage limits? Was he acting responsibly by wanting to take an extra 12kg on board with him. Was paying the bribe responsible or ethical considering that technically he contributed to making the aircraft less safe to fly? And how would you, his mother, have felt if a dangerous situation did ever develop. SURE, your son's 12kg would not have caused the aircraft to come hurtling down to earth, but if every passanger bribed an extra 12kg on board, you might have a very different scenario! Limits on baggage weight are in place for good reasons and charging heavily for excess baggage puts people off taking on board more than is safe. At the end of it all, your son broke the rules on excess baggage, and then committed a crime by paying a bribe; my guess is that you are one of very many who rant on and on about South Africa not being what it used to be "because these days everyone breaks the law".

Tia Mysoa said... .....Click here to refresh this blog

In reply to the above anonymous visitor:
Firstly, thank you for visiting my simple online abode (Mysoa).
You’re quite right! If every passenger bribed an extra 12kg on board it could easily develop into a dangerous situation. These were my exact same sentiments when I lodged my official complaint in writing to the Airports Company South Africa (ACSA), who have not even bothered to reply. Emotions were running pretty high that day at the airport as we weren’t sure when we were going to see my son again. The policy of Affirmative Action in this country has made it near impossible for whites to get a decent job here, hence the reason why my son was forced to live and work in the UK.

This is Africa (TIA) where weird and horrific things happen, and YES I am one of many who rant on and on about South Africa not being what it used to be, simply because it is the truth. At this very moment, while typing this comment, everybody is ranting and raving because our future president, Jacob Zuma, has had corruption and fraud charges against him dropped. The entire timeline of Zuma’s criminal activities, which also includes allegations of rape, can be viewed at, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7153378.stm

Please feel free to pop in here anytime and leave your comments.

Anonymous said... .....Click here to refresh this blog

To begin, my apologies for addressing you as "anonymous with son" and not as Tia Mysoa - it was a genuine mistake made without malice or forethought.

Let me address the matter further by examining the situation as any “first world” legal system might address it. Without excessive emotions or diversions and obviously being open to correction, I think I can safely assume your overarching objection to be that your son wanted to take on board 12kg more than the rules dictate and that this was ultimately achieved more cheaply by an airport official engaging in bribery.

All that is factually relevant to your opening argument is the following: your son arrived at an airport check-in desk with excess baggage of 12kg and he would have to have paid R4920 to take this with him. These 12kg could legally have been transferred to hand-luggage but your son was not able to achieve this. With time against him, your son managed to get his excess 12kg on board by engaging in a bribe of a lesser R1500. That “several other passengers with overweight luggage were also tempted by the same officials” is possibly relevant but you would have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that this was in fact the case. Given the nature and function of any airport, nothing else is relevant.

In this, a likely ruling which might surprise you (and very many South Africans), the judge would probably express alarm that your son hadn’t sorted out his luggage BEFORE going to the airport; while many passengers expect and most often receive a little leniency with excess baggage, indications are that your son actually EXPECTED major leniency. The judge may also ask why you and your son didn’t immediately consider alternative transport for the 12kg which could have followed him within five days at a greatly reduced fee (possibly less than R1500). But the judge would be most startled by the fact that you took the matter to court in the first place because from your initial argument it appears that it was your son who initiated the bribe! He did this to suit his own ends with seemingly no regard for the rules of aircraft travel laid down by international flight organisations. The judge may also implicate you because you knew this was going on and did nothing to stop it. I’m certainly not suggesting the airport official was guiltless but I’m afraid your son (and you) might be considered “more guilty” in the matter.

As I suggested, this is a likely outcome in a modern, “first world” legal system. In my experience it is the kind of legal system that most South Africans like yourself aspire to. The extraordinary paradox though is that while you “rant and rave” about everyone else bending rules and breaking the law, you continually fail to recognise that you very often turn your own back on the justice system.

Your return comments are frankly irrelevant because either they weren’t part of your initial argument, or they have nothing to do with your son and his bribe. But let me comment briefly none-the-less:

First, your official complaint to ACSA: if you actually did make such a complaint, did you highlight the fact that your son initiated the bribe? Since you’ve not had word from ACSA have you taken the matter to the next level and did you (or would you) focus only on the airport official’s guilt? Second, your emotions on the day are irrelevant – no airport anywhere can cater for individual or collective emotions; airports exist to facilitate air travel as efficiently as possible. If, as you’re likely to argue, airports in South Africa don’t run efficiently, then frankly they’ll operate even less efficiently if they start catering for emotions. Third, what has affirmative action got to do with the issue of your son bribing 12kg of excess luggage on board an aircraft? If anything at all you never raised this initially. Obviously the same goes for “South Africa not being what it used to be”, though I do ponder what South Africa actually was in the past and on what “truth” this might be based? Would your son have found a job in the UK in the eighties? I am well aware of the history of Jacob Zuma and extremely anxious that charges against him have been dropped and that he will become president but I am totally in the dark as to how this relates to your charge of bribery at the airport.

I’m sure you’ll appreciate the effort I’ve put into this response. I’m happy to continue the argument if you undertake to stick to your initial point factually, un-emotively and intelligently.

Regards,

JFMP Venter

Anonymous said... .....Click here to refresh this blog

Dear Tia Mysoa,

I forgot to make one last point: as a decent, honest, law abiding South African, I urge you to make contact with Home Affairs in the UK and inform them what your son did at the JHB airport, or that you urge him to do so; it would certainly be the right and respectable thing to do.

Regards,

JFMP Venter

Tia Mysoa said... .....Click here to refresh this blog

Dear JFMP Venter,

I really do appreciate the effort you’ve put into this response, hence the reason why I feel obliged to return the favour. My only regret now, is the fact that I didn’t elaborate too much on all the finer details when I posted the original story.

My son was accompanied by his UK girlfriend whose luggage was also found to be overweight by 8kg’s at the airport. All luggage was weighed at home before departure and several articles were left behind for later transport. Two suitcases were still slightly overweight, but we never expected 12kg’s and 8kgs’s respectively. The girlfriend broke down in tears at the checkpoint when she couldn’t understand what the officials were talking (shouting) about. Her surplus luggage wouldn’t fit in her hand luggage and I ended up bringing the extra stuff home with me.

Bribery and corruption is a crime, no matter how small the amount involved. No descent law-abiding citizen can argue against that! The incident at the airport was a, nerve-racking, experience, -- and also one of many unpleasant experiences encountered by my son and his UK companion who accompanied him on a 3-week tour of South Africa.

According to this source: (http://www.ahi.co.za/current/extortion.doc), a more extensive definition of corruption in terms of the South African Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act of 2004 (hereinafter referred to as the Anti-corruption Act) is:

“The act of unfairly or illegally influencing a decision-making process through the giving or receiving of a benefit for the person making the decision or a third party connected to the decision maker. The act of influencing the decision maker may require the decision maker to perform an act or an omission that results in a benefit accruing to the person providing the benefit or to a third party connected to such person. Corruption occurs at all levels of society, both in the private and public sector. Both the person giving the benefit and the person receiving it will be guilty of entering into a corrupt relationship, as will any third parties who knowingly were part of such a relationship.”

According to the above definition the two airport officials are just as guilty as the people paying the bribes. The question is what crimes are they actually guilty of? Is it corruption, bribery, or extortion? As a witness to the incident, standing some distance behind the rope-barriers at the weigh-in point, the handing over of money without obtaining a receipt looked like a blatant bribe too me. The manner in which the cash was transferred – not directly into the hands of the officials, but by discretely dropping the cash on the floor behind the pedestal were one airport official was standing, as instructed via eye-movements by another corrupt official, further convinced my mind that these officials knew exactly what they were doing, as if they had used this same modus operandi over and over before!

Let’s examine the crime of extortion:
The crime of extortion is committed when a person unlawfully and intentionally obtains some advantage, material or immaterial, from another person by placing illegitimate pressure in the form of threats or intimidation to induce the other person to hand over a benefit. (Same source as above).

When one re-analyzes the situation carefully it raises the question: -- Were these two airport officials highly proficient in the art of extortion, or not? Their actions had several anxious travelers with overweight luggage sitting on the floor frantically unpacking and transferring goods to their hand-luggage. Some people, including my son’s young lady companion were sobbing as if the world had come to an end. Others were engaged in heated arguments between themselves and officials about uncalibrated scales, poor service, overcrowded space, etc… It was total chaos!

At no stage were these officials able to speak calmly or provide assistance to customers. There behaviour and inability to speak proper English only served to intensify the tension that already prevailed. Their incessant demands to pay R410.00 for every 1 kg overweight were done in an intimidating an arrogant manner. I can recall how my son kept on asking one official what to do and where to go. The official simply pointed to the floor and said, “Unpack over there!” While he was busy sorting out what to take and what to leave, the officials took turns yelling at him to hurry up. I am very proud of my son for staying calm in that situation. Despite the fact that weighty pieces of luggage had been transferred to the larger carry-bag, his main luggage still registered “over-weight” – I cannot recall by how many kg’s. In the end I am not even sure if my son actually benefited from paying an amount of R1500-00 because his luggage was never re-weighed after the final attempt to transfer the weight. --- So there goes the entire argument concerning bribery and corruption on his part. In my opinion the R1500-00 was simply paid to stop the undue harassment and madness that was prevailing at the time, --- or was it extortion? The only persons who really benefited were the two corrupt officials.

Threats, intimidation, illegitimate pressure, pathetic service, bewildered customers, two distressed kids. It’s the perfect breeding ground for corrupt airport officials to commit extortion!

Your Worship, we plead NOT GUILTY!

As for your last comment about doing the right and respectable thing: My son is already mad at me for ever mentioning this episode on a public blog. He is decent, honest, and law abiding young man, who like many others – including us, learn the lessons of life through trial and error. He can decide for himself what’s the right thing to do. Sometimes it’s better to do nothing, unless you’re having sleepless nights about the issue, --- which we don’t!

Please feel free to comment on any other posts as well. It’s always a pleasure to debate issues with intelligent folk. You may find my article “Memoirs of an Apartheid cop” interesting. Sorry I do not know how to place workable links directly in these comments.

Kind Regards

Anonymous said... .....Click here to refresh this blog

With respect, I can only emphasize what I said previously, it being that "I’m happy to continue the argument if you undertake to stick to your initial point factually, un-emotively and intelligently".

Anonymous said... .....Click here to refresh this blog

One legal implication of your "going quiet" is that you are unable "to stick to your initial point factually, un-emotively and intelligently".

Regards,
J Venter

Tia Mysoa said... .....Click here to refresh this blog

Frankly Mr Venter, I don’t really clear a damn what you think! You are obviously a big bullshitter who doesn’t have a cooking clue what the difference is between a Judge and a Magistrate. Furthermore, --- don’t threaten me with legal implications for being quite? So piss off and go talk shit on some other blog please!

Anonymous said... .....Click here to refresh this blog

This Venter chap sounds like bloody parrot. "Stick to your initial point factually, un-emotively and intelligently"

He probably has these words saved on a notepad for easy copy & paste. What an arsehole!!!

Anonymous said... .....Click here to refresh this blog

And so, Tia Mysoa, as is always the case with you and yours, the landslide into serious idiocy begins. Your latest response makes it pretty clear that your blood pressure is on the up and you're getting hot under the collar. Three or four days ago you said "It’s always a pleasure to debate issues with intelligent folk". Now, simply because I don't agree with your views, you're suggesting I "piss off and go talk shit on some other blog". This demonstrates little else other than that you can't debate but you are well capable of dictating. You also can't decipher the difference between a legal argument and a legal threat; I never threatened you at all!

I see from your blog that you have a strong association with the Bible. So, Tia Mysoa, before I sign off, despondent that yet another of your ilk is unable to debate "factually, un-emotively and intelligently" *(see below), I challenge you stand up at the pulpit at the next service you attend and share your philosophies with the congregation using the same terminology you used in your response to me. I'm sure the minister would have no problem with it and it would make an honest, decent and respectable Christian out of you.

(*) In response to above criticism of my using copy and paste; OF COURSE I use copy and paste – this is the 21st century and copy and paste are there to be used in the way I’ve used them. But in every which way I suspect that you, like Tia Mysoa, hankers after the 17th century?

Cheers almal!

J Venter (hell that surname must unsettle you :)

Anonymous said... .....Click here to refresh this blog

Hi Tia,

Hmmm, I c ur having a slight tiff with Mr Venter here. It seems the man has succeeded in provoking u. Well I don’t really blame u. This is so typical of the liberal English mind. They have this devious ability to verbally assault ones character, intelligence and country in the nicest way possible, and when u call a spade a spade, it really rattles their cage.

I have some time on hands, being a looong weekend, so if you don’t mind I’d like to say a few things in ur defense and point out how venter has insulted u and ur son.
First this man accuses ur son of committing a crime. The he accuses and others (probably South Africans or Afrikaners) of ranting on and on about South Africa not being what it used to be. This already tells me that venter (if that’s his real name) is probably sitting smugly somewhere outside the borders of this country. He also accuses everyone (in SA I presume) of breaking the law (another insult).

Then venter goes on to say, “In my experience it is the kind of legal system that most South Africans like yourself aspire to. (Insulting U and ur country). The extraordinary paradox though is that while you “rant and rave” about everyone else bending rules and breaking the law, you continually fail to recognise that you very often turn your own back on the justice system.” Unfounded accusations and insults!

Despite these blatant insults on ur person and ur fellow countrymen u kept ur dignity and provided the man with valid reasons for a legal defense. How does venter react? He simply repeats the statement, "I’m happy to continue the argument if you undertake to stick to your initial point factually, un-emotively and intelligently". This can hardly be classified as a response at all! In fact it was a deliberate attack on ur intelligence. He in fact makes a very direct and personal assumption which was clearly meant to say, “U R Stupid”.

U then did the right thing by ignoring his remarks. I bet he came popping in and out of ur blog to see how u were going to react. (Go check ur feedjit stats). Finally, when venter sees that ur not going to respond, not realizing that some people have other important things to do and cannot sit in front of their pc’s all day, he states, “One legal implication of your "going quiet" is that you are unable "to stick to your initial point factually, un-emotively and intelligently". Which actually means, “ur not responding because ur stupid!” He deserved what was coming to him on ur final comment!!!! THAT really pissed him off! Sheeez even I almost fell off my chair!

Tia Mysoa said... .....Click here to refresh this blog

Yep, sometimes you have to be cruel to stimulate a response! Its called shock therapy!

It really amazes me when intelligent people cannot see when they have in fact won an argument. In my response I actually agreed with Mr Venter. He bowled me over with a very valid argument, and like I said before, I regretted the fact that I did not elaborate too much on all the finer details when I posted the original story. However, I was eager to continue with a debate (not necessarily on the issue at the airport), but wherever the discussion took us. This is how I understand what blogging is all about. My attempts to sway the conversation in another direction using contentious issues emanating from the original debate obviously failed. Mr Venter was adamant! He wanted to continue flogging (is it blogging) a dead horse. And when the poor beaten horse kept ‘dead’ quiet the man makes an implication (a legal one nogal), that I’m not intelligent. So to his utter amazement the horse jumps up and bites him on the arse, and whoola --- the man finally speaks!

Welcome back Mr Venter. I hope I haven’t scared you off for good! Sorry about that rather rude message. If you want to I can always delete it.

We South Africans are an uncultivated, crude, bunch of criminals. We’ve decided that if you cannot beat them and cannot leave the country (like you have obviously done), then we have to join them. It’s a real sorry state of affairs, but unfortunately it’s the only way we can get into politics and parliament. I’ll understand if you don’t want to be associated with us.

BTW --- I’m not a very good Christian and I never attend church ‘cause these folk cannot tolerate drinkers or smokers. This fact doesn’t prevent me from quoting from biblical sources or from agreeing with Christian philosophies.

Carl Muller said... .....Click here to refresh this blog

Bribing people just support the criminal behavior.
In good old afrikaans "deler is so goed as die deler"
In my eyes your son is as good a criminal as the guy who received to bribe.

Anonymous said... .....Click here to refresh this blog

Absolutely spot on! Now Tia Mysoa will no doubt diagree with you Carl and find a way of dis-crediting the true Afrikaans spirit.

For the record, my name IS J Venter and I have strong Afrikaans roots. I live in Midrand and practice as an attorney.

J Venter

Tia Mysoa said... .....Click here to refresh this blog

Dear Carl,

Thanks for visiting my blog, and sorry for the late response from my side. I have been away on business for a few days.

I agree with your views --- 100 percent!
However, I am not in a position to defend my son as I do not have all the facts at my disposal. I merely reported my own version of events in this posting and kept my story short and to the point.

Bribery in this country remains a serious problem, simply because both parties are benefiting from the deal. I have recently witnessed another incident of bribery and strangely enough, it also involved people who were on their way to the airport. Allow me to briefly share the details of this incident. I will also pose a question at the end of this comment with the hope that someone will provide me with an honest and truthful answer based on the circumstances of this specific incident.

The people involved were the Metro municipal police who were managing a speedtrap along a stretch of road leading to the airport. The other people involved were travelling in a rented vehicle. The were caught speeding in a 60km zone and apparently they were going so fast that the Metro police wanted to arrest and lockup the driver, who happened to be a young lady whom I guessed was in her mid twenties. I was also pulled off for speeding and received a written fine of R600. While one cop was busy with my paperwork, others were busy with a full-on roadworthy inspection of my vehicle. While this was going on I was able to overhear the conversation between members of the Metro police and the young lady whom they were threatening with arrest. She spoke in a clearly audible British accent and explained that she was prepared to pay a fine but under no circumstances was she going to spend the entire weekend behind bars. According to the one Metro chap, they had no choice but to lock her up. Her first court appearance would be on the Tuesday, as the Monday was a public holiday. This meant that she would remain in custody for four nights. (The incident happened on a Friday afternoon). Bail would only be established on the following Tuesday. The young lady explained in considerable detail why it was absolutely vital that she not miss her flight to the UK. She also mentioned that her job in the UK would be on the line if she did not attend an important meeting on Tuesday morning. “You can explain everything in court lady,” is all the cop could say. One of the other occupants’, who was travelling with the lady, eventually approached the senior Metro cop on the scene. At that stage I was requested to leave. I pulled off at a fuel station around the next corner, and while filling up was quite surprised to see the same rented vehicle pull up at a nearby pump. The same young lady was driving. I approached her and learned that she paid the Metro cops a bribe of R6000. They initially wanted R10.000, but among the three occupants they only managed to come up with approx 6000 cash. All three occupants were professional people in the IT business. They were all South African citizens – not British. I gathered that a rather lucrative business deal was at stake, and that it was absolutely vital they all attend a meeting at a prominent bank in London on the following Tuesday.

My question is this:
What would you have done under these circumstances?
Also, --- take into consideration that a police holding cell is not a pleasant place, especially for a young attractive white lady, who has never experienced something like this.

Tia Mysoa said... .....Click here to refresh this blog

Welcome back J Venter. How long must one practice to become a fully fledged attorney? (LOL)

Please see my above comments in reply to Carl Muller. Your honest input would be much appreciated.

I am not planning on going away for another 3 weeks so I’ll be able to respond more swiftly on any of your comments. Please be factual, intelligent, and truthful. You may get emotional if you want to.

Kind Regards

Anonymous said... .....Click here to refresh this blog

"The crime of extortion is committed when a person unlawfully and intentionally obtains some advantage, material or immaterial, from another person by placing illegitimate pressure in the form of threats or intimidation."

In my view the cops should have done their lawful duty by immediately arresting the speeding lady. This is so typical of these corrupt cops! They knew too well that the lady was absolutely terrified of being locked up and for that reason she was an easy victim of extortion. If these cops do their rightful duty it would instantly deter drivers from exceeding the speed limit at such high speeds, but then the income received by the municipality from this source would also drop drastically. Your previous article “the root of all evil” is so true.

To answer your question: I would have done exactly the same. Rather pay the bastards than risk being killed or raped in jail or losing your job. If they later want to charge you for bribery then so be it.

Where is Mr Venter? It would be interesting to hear the views of someone with a legal background.

Anonymous said... .....Click here to refresh this blog

s*** TIA, can't you follow JV's argumenty?? first i'm born and bred south african, conservative, christian, definitely no fan of JZ, ANC, corruption etc etc. but all your replies to jv make me embarrassed because you don't seems to understand what factual or unemotional means. and if your son didn't want you to write about this on your blog then it proves that intelligence isn't genetic ... not sure you'll understand that.

Tia Mysoa said... .....Click here to refresh this blog

Dear visitor, I’ve noticed from the live traffic feed on this blog that you are from Southampton in the UK, or to be more accurate -- the IP address you are using is from Southampton UK. The IP address of the JV chap you are referring to is also from Southampton UK. This info leads me to suspect that maybe YOU are Mr J Venter. Maybe I’m wrong, but nevertheless – whoever you are, I take exception to the fact that you disrespect the intelligence in my genetic bloodline.

The comments on this blog are not moderated, nor are there any set rules of correspondence, because I believe in freedom of speech. But when comments get personal and I have sufficient evidence that a specific article is being continuously stalked with malicious intent by the same IP address then I (the owner of this blog) my exercise my discretion to delete comments, or even the entire posting.

As far as I’m concerned all comments regarding this specific article are now closed. I have published a clear notice to this effect. Anybody wishing to debate this issue further may send email to tiamysoa@gmail.com

Tia Mysoa said... .....Click here to refresh this blog

COMMENTS REGARDING THIS SPECIFIC ARTICLE ARE NOW CLOSED!

ANY PERSON WHO WISHES TO DEBATE THIS ISSUE FURTHER IS WELCOME TO SEND ME EMAIL.

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