File picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi

Harare - SAA had to delay a plane in Harare on Tuesday after one of its pilots stripped at the airport, apparently in frustration at being searched by security officials.

Independent sources at Harare International Airport on Wednesday confirmed a report saying the pilot, identified as W van Ginkel, had been arrested after he stripped and that it had taken several hours for a replacement to arrive in Harare to fly 90 passengers to Joburg.

National police spokesman Paul Nyathi said: “We have arrested one person at Harare International Airport this morning in connection with misconduct. He has been charged with criminal nuisance and has since deposited a fine.”

People who witnessed the incident said that when Van Ginkel passed the X-ray screening gates, the detectors beeped.

“After removing his shoes, there was something still beeping so he was ordered to remove his belt,” said a witness. “That certainly frustrated him as he proceeded to remove his trousers, remaining with only his underwear.”

David Chawota, general manager of the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe, said. “Captain Van Ginkel arrived at the X-ray gates and was told to remove his belt and he went on to remove his trousers. When he was questioned, he said it was a mistake. The matter is with the police.”

The flight had been delayed as officials were concerned the pilot might be mentally unstable.

SAA spokesman Tlali Tlali said the captain had been charged with indecent exposure and fined. He has been working for SAA for 19 years.

“We regret the incident and would like to apologise to our passengers and our stakeholders at large. This is a matter which the airline will investigate in order to fully understand the circumstances that led to the conduct complained of. Once we have all the information, we will decide on what course of action to take.” - Independent Foreign Service

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