Passengers rushing to meetings, workshops and conferences from Mthatha to Johannesburg were left stranded for two days after flights were grounded at the Mthatha Airport due to a fire engine breakdown.
Some of the people had no choice but to turn back to their homes, while others booked rooms in hotels when told they won’t be able to fly out of Mthatha on Tuesday morning.
Others like Zandile Ntoyaphi were forced to sleep on benches inside the airport as she was unable to travel back home for the night. This was after she was told that she would be able to board a plane to Johannesburg on Tuesday afternoon.
“I am attending a conference there which started on Tuesday evening,” she told the Daily Dispatch when it caught up with her at the airport this morning.
But Mthatha Airport manager Anderson Maduneni blamed a breakdown for the crisis.
He said they had two serviceable engines, one of which had been sent for repairs. The other one had functioned perfectly on Tuesday morning, but later broke down.
“We approached KSD municipality who didn’t have a fire truck and gave us a small engine.We also went to the South African National Defence Force but they couldn’t provide one. We then approached O R Tambo district municipality but they couldn’t assist us. Remember they service a vast area,” he added.
He said they had purchased the spare part which had broken down on the remaining fire engine from Kimberley which had been driven to Mthatha overnight on Tuesday.
However the Dispatch can confirm that by 10 am today, the flights had not taken off. Even planes coming from Johannesburg were told they would not be able to land at the airport.