Dutch citizen Johan Linders and his 10-year-old daughter Bianca Ludaka this week travelled 800km from Lusikisiki in the Eastern Cape to O R Tambo Airport to catch a KLM flight to Amsterdam.
But the pair were not allowed to board the flight because officials took issue with their “dirty clothes” and “the fact that I am white and Bianca is black”.
Linders is accusing the airline of being racist and having no particular reason for disallowing him and his daughter on the flight on Wednesday night.
The airline, however, said that he had not had “sufficient documentation to travel with the young girl”.
Linders and Bianca left Lusikisiki earlier this week. They drove from home to Kroonstad and from there boarded a bus to Joburg.
“I applied for Bianca’s visa at the Dutch embassy a month ago. I called the Pretoria office to find out when it would be ready and collected it on Tuesday before we went to the airport. They need lots of documentation in order to grant a visa, which I provided. But KLM were not satisfied with the same documentation,” he said, admitting, however, that his documents were certified copies and not originals.
“I don’t travel with the originals any more. The last time I carried them, I was robbed.”
Linders is Bianca’s legal guardian. He and the child’s mother, Thoko Ludaka, had been common law partners since 1998. When she died in 2010, he applied to become the child’s legal guardian.
He was granted legal guardianship by the Eastern Cape High Court in April last year, according to a document he showed this newspaper.
Linders was taking Bianca on holiday to meet his family in Amsterdam for the first time. Their return flight was booked for August.
“When we checked in, a woman came and asked me questions. She said I must wait. I have a Dutch passport so I can travel home (to the Netherlands) any time, but for Bianca I had to get a visa.
“She called another man to come and question us. He said he was also security. He asked both of us questions. They asked Bianca who I was and where we were going. She answered them, but they were not satisfied. They told me to call the Dutch consulate to help me sort out the issue as I cannot travel with Bianca. He said the papers I had were incorrect.”
Linders said no one offered him and his daughter accommodation after forcing them to miss their flight. He said he had spent thousands of rands on bus and plane tickets, the visa application and insurance.
“The money is as good as down the toilet,” said Linders, who owns an electrical engineering business in Lusikisiki. “I am an ordinary man, not a criminal. I can understand that they are trying to take precautions against child trafficking and organised crime. They should do their homework. For me, this is about race. If Bianca and I were the same colour, they wouldn’t have asked any questions,” Linders said.
KLM spokesperson Lorna Burke said Linders had been interviewed by the Southern African Immigration Liaison and the police.
He was then advised that he did not have sufficient documentation for the child.
“This resulted in KLM having to deny the passengers the right to board the aircraft. An airline has to ensure that passengers who are travelling have the correct documentation.”
Burke said that should the immigration authorities in the country of destination refuse passengers entry for not having the correct papers, the airline would be fined.
“The fines are either e5000 or e10 000, depending on the severity of the case, and are obliged to bring the passengers back to the country of origin.”
Linders and Bianca returned to the Eastern Cape yesterday. - Saturday Star