Tanzanian officials are working through diplomatic channels to resolve a standoff with SA authorities over an Air Tanzania aircraft impounded at OR Tambo airport. Picture: Xinhua

Johannesburg – Tanzanian government officials are working through diplomatic channels to resolve a standoff with South African authorities over an Air Tanzania aircraft impounded at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.

Tensions between the two countries continued on Wednesday as Tanzanian riot police forcibly dispersed protesters outside the South African embassy in Dar es Salaam who demanded the return of the aircraft and accused Pretoria of betrayal, the East African reported.

Protesters held up banners calling for the plane’s release and reminding South Africans how Tanzanians with so little had contributed significantly to the fight against apartheid when their fellow Africans needed help.

Tanzanian police said they are trying to establish who the ringleaders behind the protest are as the demonstrators had failed to organise their action through the proper channels.

The Air Tanzania aircraft was seized at OR Tambo, following an order granted by the High Court in Johannesburg at the end of last week, after it landed in South Africa during a scheduled flight from Tanzania’s economic capital Dar es Salaam.

The court order was granted after the Tanzanian government refused to pay a Namibian-born farmer the full $33 million (about R509 million) compensation he is owed after his farm in Tanzania was nationalised decades ago by the Tanzanian government.

The privately-owned bean and seed farm, including equipment, 250 cars and 12 small planes, was seized by the Tanzanian authorities in the 1980s. The farmer was subsequently awarded $33 million in compensation in the 1990s. 

However, Dar es Salaam only paid out $20 million (R308 million) so with interest added there is now an outstanding balance of $16 million (R247 million) and after empty promises by Tanzania to pay the full amount owed the unnamed farmer decided to take further legal action leading to the plane’s seizure.

African News Agency (ANA)