Why South African Court ordered the release of Air Tanzania plane

Wednesday September 04 2019
Air Tz pic

The Gauteng Lower Division Court, Johannesburg today September 4, ordered the release of an ATCL plane- Airbus A220-300 which was impounded on August 23 following a court order which was obtained by Hermanus Steyn .

In the ruling the court also ordered Mr Hermanus Steyn to pay the costs of the lawsuit including the costs occasioned by employment of two counsels.

“I am of the considered view that the arbitration award ceased to exist on May 3 2011 after it was made a court order. I hold the view that when the parties concluded the deed of settlement, the compromise it was in relation to the court order of May 3, 2011 and there was no arbitration award in existence at the time,” reads the Judge Tawala’s ruling.

Judge Twala also said he was in agreement with Judge Phillip J’s ruling of 2018 that once a deed of settlement is filed in Court for compromise, it means the claim that existed before the deed of settlement is entered into is abandoned.

He further added that he was in agreement with the applicant (The Government of Tanzania) that an opinion of a lawyer cannot trump the judgment of the court which remains binding and enforceable until it is set aside.

“I am therefore satisfied that this court does not have jurisdiction to attach the property of the client to confirm or found jurisdiction based on a court order of a foreign court,” reads the ruling.


And with that he declared that the ex parte order of August 21 , 2019 was erroneously granted and should be set aside.

After Judge Twala ahd read the ruling Mr Steyn’s side immediately filed for an interdict which sought to prevent the aircraft from leaving.

However Judge Lemont who was presiding over the case said ‘if Judge Twala wanted the plane to remain pending an appeal, he would have made that order when he set aside that order attaching the plane belonging to the government of Tanzania’.

Responding to Judge Lemont’s ruling Mr Steyn’s lawyer described the ruling as ‘a complete failure of justice and that his client feels hard done by.

According to him, ’Mr Steyn had lost the attachment which means he cannot appeal the ruling without the airbus being grounded’.

The news of the release of the plane reverberated across Tanzania and beyond with Minister of Works and Transport Isaac Kamwelu telling the President that the plane was now on its way back to Tanzania.

According to the minister the plane shall soon resume its usual scheduled flights as planned.

On Friday, August 30, lawyers representing Tanzania in the case asked the court to quash the order that led to the seizure the Airbus A220- 300, arguing that it was wrongly granted.

The Tanzanian defense team represented by Victor Nkhwashu Attorney Inc argued that the South African court did not have the jurisdiction to hear this case.

“The order can only be executed on the Tanzania soil as confirmed by Judge B.K.Phillip of the Tanzania Commercial Courts, because there is already a court order in Tanzania,” said Mr Victor Nkhwashu told the Citizen then.