Zim dad sues airline for R3m after son barred from boarding plane, dashing his tennis pro dream

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  • A Zimbabwean teen was blocked from boarding a flight at OR Tambo International Airport because an airline staffer thought he had a fake visa.
  • His father said missing out on a tennis tournament in Egypt prevented the teen from becoming a professional player.
  • The visa was later proven to be authentic, and now his father is demanding R3 million.

Zimbabwean father Tendai Sibanda is demanding more than R3 million in damages after Ethiopian Airlines blocked his underage son from boarding a flight from Johannesburg to Egypt, where he was supposed to play tennis as part of the Africa Junior Champions (AJC) competition.

The airline said 17-year-old Mengezi Sibanda’s visa was a fake.

His flight to Egypt was due to connect through Addis Ababa from Johannesburg.

However, when he and his older brother got to the check-in point at OR Tambo, an Ethiopian Airlines employee doubted the authenticity of the Egyptian visa on his passport.

Without checking with Egyptian authorities, he blocked Mengezi from boarding the flight.

“The only assertion presented was that his visa to Egypt, on the face of it, likely appeared invalid, this without qualification or taking steps to test the veracity of the same,” reads the summons Mabuza Stha Attorneys filed at the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg.

Sibanda is counting his son’s losses.

It is alleged in court papers that Mengezi “suffered damages in that he lost the monetary value associated with travelling costs, accommodation costs, and participation in the AJC tournament, which cascaded to the fact that the preparatory work thereto for the tournament was thus consequently lost”.

It is their case that if Mengezi had attended the tournament, he would have turned professional, and that Ethiopian Airlines blocked him from reaching this carefully planned dream.

Sibanda added that his son’s performance had dropped because the incident caused him trauma and “mental anguish.”

In court papers, he claimed to have followed up with the Egyptian embassy about the visa, and that they told him in communication presented to the court, that it was valid.

Ethiopian Airlines is yet to file its papers.