File: The Airbus 220-300 aircraft is leased by loss-making state carrier Air Tanzania Company Limited (ATCL).
JOHANNESBURG - An Airbus 220-300 aircraft leased by Tanzania's national flag carrier was seized following a court application by a retired farmer who is owed compensation by the Tanzanian government, the farmer's lawyer said.
The plane had been scheduled to fly from the OR Tambo International Airport to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on Friday, but was seized on an order issued by the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg, Tanzania's transport ministry said in a statement.
Roger Wakefield of Werksmans Attorneys said his client, an elderly farmer who asked not to be named, was owed $33-million -- including interest -- in compensation from the Tanzanian government after his land in the country was expropriated several decades ago.
The farmer was subsequently awarded the compensation in an arbitration, he said.
Wakefield said the only way Tanzania could secure the release of the plane was if it put up security or paid the debt.
He said the plane was impounded in line with South African and international laws allowing for an asset owned by a foreign entity to be attached to a case related to a foreign arbitration award.
The plane was chosen because there is evidence it is owned directly by the Tanzanian government and its value is commensurate with the amount owed to the farmer, who was born in Namibia, he said.
While the Tanzanian government has acknowledged it owes the farmer money, has previously made some payments and promised to pay the rest, it has not made a payment since around 2014, Wakefield said.
The plane is leased by loss-making state carrier Air Tanzania Company Limited (ATCL).