Airlink, Fly CemAir (Pty) Ltd, National Airways Corporation (NAC), Bidair, Civair Helicopters and Aeroplanes and SAA Pilots Association (SAAPA) among other aviation entities and social enterprises have proven to be vital as they were at the forefront of bringing urgently needed relief and rescue efforts in the aftermath of the looting and civil unrest that has recently devastated the Kwazulu-Natal(KZN) Province of South Africa.
Some planes were used to ferry various families out of the province whilst some were used to fly in food and medical supplies and others have also been used to fly in managers to come and look at the damage caused at warehouses, including for insurance purposes.
The manager of the privately-owned Cape Winelands Airport, Mark Wilkinson said many requests were coming from donors and charities to help in any way possible and they were able to get involved and assist a relief flight departing from its neighbour, the Cape Town International Airport.
Andy Cluver, owner of Civair Helicopters and Aeroplanes said they had taken up to about a tonne of food to KwaZulu-Natal
“The Cape Winelands Airport contacted us and said they are putting together a relief flight and we got involved too. About a tonne of porridge was delivered. Some donors were from as far as Canada. The camaraderie is unbelievable. We started planning at 11:00 Friday morning and by 14:00 the plane took off for KwaZulu-Natal,” Cluver said.
Additionally, Cluver said that such commitment shows how South Africans can come together in a time of disaster to foster solutions.
The day after the looting, burning and chaos started to subside in the province, it has been reported, Members of the SAA Pilots Association (SAAPA) were reaching out on their Telegram group asking if anyone needed to be assisted with supplies, food or medical supplies.
Pilots who had access to a range of aircraft from small single engine to larger twins rallied to offer their expertise with SAAPA leadership setting up a group with pilots who lived in the province getting feedback on the situation.
To date, SAAPA pilots have assisted in collecting families and flying them out of the hot spots and bringing in much needed medical supplies to places like Margate and Richards Bay.
Using his own small 4-seater DynAero MCR4S, to evacuate people from Margate and took urgently needed baby formula and medical supplies to Pietermaritzburg, Captain Allen Lange was amongst one of the SAAPA members who assisted.
The South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) together with private airline, Airlink, supermarket chain, Shoprite and global law firm, Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) have also joined forces to provide vital relief, supplies and support in cleaning up.
Together they provided and safely transported over 2 000 food packages and provisions to people who were currently without any food after shops in the city and surrounds were pillaged.
In a press release, it has been revealed that a team of 85 volunteers from Airlink and HSF flew to Pietermaritzburg on Sunday which was Nelson Mandela International Day where Santaco-affiliated minibus taxis ferried them to those areas in most need of support.
Relief supplies and food packages were donated by Airlink, HSF, their respective staff and matched with contributions from Shoprite.
Airlink CEO and Managing Director, Rodger Foster pointed out that Airlink has a long association with Pietermaritzburg and the majority in the city rely on them when it comes to business operations.
“Many people and enterprises in the area rely on our services for their business and private travel. Besides supporting the clean-up and delivering vital provisions, Airlink, together with Santaco, Shoprite and HSF felt it was important to demonstrate how, by joining hands, it is possible to honour the values promoted by Nelson Mandela by repairing community trust, restoring civil society and rebuilding the local economy,” Foster explained in a statement.
Santaco spokesperson, Sifiso Shangase said; “in the spirit of Nelson Mandela Day we can help to bridge and heal the ruptures to the social fabric in our region and neighbourhoods, especially where fear and insecurity saw some communities seek retribution by attacking their neighbours.”
“At this time of crisis it is important that we all stand and work together towards a common purpose as South Africans do best not just in addressing the immediate crisis, but in laying the foundation for a more sustainable and equitable society where the rule of law is respected alongside our Constitutional rights, including the dignity and well-being of every citizen,” said HSF Senior Associate, Tatum Govender.
The General Manager Operations(PRFO) for NAC, Shaun Starke said they were incredibly proud to have been able to assist with the movement of critical medical supplies to KZN.
According to sources, the goodwill being poured out from the aviation team and from other parts of the country is impressive indicating that on Friday last week, there were about 80 such flights loaded with food and medical supplies.
Following the destruction of a blood bank in Durban, it has been learnt that two private planes flew in blood supplies to the city and the SA Red Cross has also used planes to fly in supplies.
“A mobile company flew in cable to restore its damaged network towers, and more private security was flown in to protect businesses. Some farmers used their small planes to bring food to family and friends in the province.
“All the pilots flying these planes have been fantastic. They have really pulled together when it was needed. This just shows how vital air connectivity is,” said the source.
The Muslim community has been also commended for assisting in getting aid delivered to the city.
By Joyce Mukucha