THE complaints by an American woman over her humiliating treatment at the Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula International Airport are a disgrace to the country, says a former district commissioner Paul Sensele. And a senior Zambia Airports Corporation member of staff based in Lusaka says the lack of basic equipment at the HMNIA is costing the country huge revenue losses due to the inability to attract huge aircrafts and new airlines.
Commenting on Tracy More, who has written to The Mast revealing how furious she was after four men at HMNIA strapped her to a chair and in the
process touched her breast, torso and bums to deplane her.
“It is the first time I was ever put in such a chair strapped and restrained like a criminal handled by law enforcement officers. They struggled both to strap me and lift me, my breasts were touched, my torso was touched, and my bums were touched. I felt violated, my dignity was lost, I felt I was psychologically raped…I had to close my eyes all the way to the steep staircase to the ground,” narrated More.
A Livingstone resident Joseph Moyo has sued the South African Airways and the Zambia Airports Corporation seeking compensation for causing him pain, emotional stress, indignity and violation of his rights by failing to provide equipment for him to board and disembark from an aircraft due to his reduced mobility. And Sensele urged the corporation to urgently purchase the equipment or risk further law suits.
“It was a very sad reading of how Tracy said she felt like she was psychologically raped when men working for the corporation touched her breasts, bums and torso. We are a tourist capital and we should be seen to promote good practices, especially when dealing with women and people living with physical disabilities. Surely at this time and age can we afford to be lifting people out of an aircraft when we have machines designed for this purpose without humiliating those that are affected like Tracy More,” he said.
“He added that laws have changed with regards the treatment of women. No one can just touch a woman’s breasts, let alone four men, this is a scandal and must be discredited by both the President, gender and transport ministers. Her treatment is a disgrace and it tarnished our image as a tourist capital. In the USA, we have seen and heard of how some men have resigned from public office or fallen out of political limelight after some women complained of being touched on their breasts,” Sensele said.
An airports corporation source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said HMNIA had in the recent past lost business from airlines such as Ethiopian Airways due to its inability to land big aircrafts which require certain equipment to service the plane after it has landed.
“Ethiopian airlines did an inspection of the airport because they wanted to introduce bigger aircrafts to land at HMNIA but they noted that there was no high-loader to load and offload luggage. They also noted that we do not have a Passenger Assistant Unit (PRU), which should make passengers with reduced mobility board or disembark from the aircrafts. We also have no air-bridge which can be a sure means for people with reduced mobility access or leave the aircraft,” the source said.
The source further indicated that Ethiopian airlines has since started servicing Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls airport with the bigger aircrafts.
“We have heard that concerns of the absence of certain equipment have been made know to management at HMNIA but that they are adamant…our friends across the river in Zimbabwe can now have 10 large aircrafts park at the airport in addition to 15 medium aircrafts and about 4 to 5 smaller planes at a time but we can’t do this at HMNIA due to big wing spans of the aircrafts,” the source said.
The source further revealed that Victoria Falls airport services airlines such a Etihad, Fastjet, Iberia, Qatar, Air India, Singapore, Ethiopian, Kenya, and South African airlines, while HMNIA has less than five.