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16 Jun, 2023 14:34

South African delegation stuck at Polish airport

The group consisting of President Ramaphosa’s security detail and several journalists say they were barred from leaving their plane
South African delegation stuck at Polish airport

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s security detail and a press pool claim to have been stuck at an airport in Warsaw while en route to Ukraine as part of a peace mission after the Polish authorities allegedly barred them from leaving their plane. 

The team, consisting of over 100 security personnel and some 20 reporters, departed from Pretoria on Wednesday and was supposed to travel to Kiev to prepare for Ramaphosa’s meeting with Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky. After that, the delegation was set to make its way to St Petersburg. 

Govan Whittles, a South African journalist who was among those stuck on the plane, told RT that the team is apparently no longer a part of the delegation to Ukraine and that Ramaphosa has already made his way to Kiev. 

According to the journalist, the Polish authorities demanded that the South African president's security personnel surrender their weapons, claiming that they do not have the correct permits to bring them into the country. One member of the Presidential Protection Services (PPS) was even strip-searched by Polish police despite holding a diplomatic passport, Whittles claimed. 

“That’s never happened before in all the years of travel by the PPS. This is now a diplomatic row,“ the journalist pointed out, adding that the South African delegation did not expect such a “hostile welcome” when they arrived at the Chopin airport in Warsaw. 

Ramaphosa’s head of security, Major General Wally Rhoode, pointed to racism and sabotage as reasons for the delegation having been prevented from disembarking the aircraft. 

The Polish Border Security service, meanwhile, insisted that it did not prevent Ramaphosa’s delegation from disembarking the plane and that they had voluntarily chosen to remain on the aircraft. The Polish Foreign Ministry has since also explained that the South African flight was delayed due to “dangerous materials” and “undeclared individuals” on board. 

Pieter Du Toit, another journalist on the plane, stated on Friday that after a total of 24 hours and 47 minutes on the tarmac in Warsaw, the Polish authorities finally allowed the South African delegation to leave the plane. He noted that it is unclear where they will be going, for how long, or when they will leave. 

Meanwhile, Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Vincent Magwenya, has posted a video on Twitter stating that the president made it safely to Kiev and that “there has been no compromise whatsoever to the president’s safety due to the impasse” in Poland.