The Department of Foreign Affairs has been in talks with Equatorial Guinea’s representative in Pretoria in an effort to secure the release of two air-crew members stranded there as pawns in a dispute between aviation companies.
Spokesperson Nomafela Kota confirmed this on Wednesday.
Asked whether the matter has caused any rift in relations between the two countries, she said: ”For now, no. We just have to wait for the process to reach its final conclusion.”
It is alleged that the local airline, Getra, held Pillay and his female colleague, Ruwaide Kalbine, as ”insurance” when an aircraft the two worked on for Johannesburg-based Global Aviation Leasing (GAL) left Equatorial Guinea.
Its departure on November 17 took place amid accusations by GAL that Getra and another company, Venatto Trading, were breaching safety regulations.
Within a string of deals, first in the line of companies was GAL, which entered into a contract with Venatto Trading to fly one of its aircraft, signed through a deal with Air Quarius.
Venatto was then contracted to fly goods for the local airline Guinea Ecuatorial de Transportes Aereos (Getra) between the country’s island capital, Malabo, Bata on the mainland and Douala in neighbouring Cameroon.
Equatorial Guinea’s finance minister is believed to be a shareholder in Getra.
”Venatto has commercial obligations to Getra and Venatto has not fulfilled these,” GAL CEO Daniel Rosenzweig said on Tuesday. ”Getra, through controls it has in government, wants Venatto to fulfil the obligation.”
Venatto MD Mike Commorant denied this and would not comment further, except to say that it was GAL that had flown the aircraft out of Equatorial Guinea.
”So, if he [Rosenzweig] wants his crew, he must go and fetch them.”
He also stressed that he had a contract only with Air Quarius.
Meanwhile, the Johannesburg family of Sechan Pillay has become increasingly anxious as the two remain in the country against their will. — Sapa