Open Letter to Swissport Cargo Services

Mr Songezo Vananda
Manager Swissport Cargo Services
Cape Town International Airport

Mr Vananda,

It was a pleasure meeting you yesterday. Unfortunately the reason for our meeting wasn’t that pleasant.

Our two KLR motorbikes are still standing at the airport in Cape Town. On Monday, May 3, we had to start our long ride south across Africa to raise funds for Operation Smile. I showed you the pictures of those poor kids that were to benefit from our fundraising.

More than ever before I believe that the problem was caused by the lack of interest, lack of enthusiasm and lack of good organisation shown by some employees of Swissport Cargo Services.

I hate it when Europe is always mentioned as example for us Africans. However, I really think that we can learn a lot from Munich airport, as an example, Two years ago I had to deliver my bike there for the flight to South Africa. I was impressed by the good organisation and the way how they ensured that the documentation was correct and ready before I left. Although I had to deal with different departmens (customs, cargo services), the one department sent me to the next to ensure that all stamps had been secured. They refused to receive any documentation until all steps were taken.

What we experienced at Swissport Cargo Services at Cape Town Int. Airport fell short of a joke.

The lady that told you that she had informed us about all steps to be taken, lied. We were three people. She didn’t inform us of anything, she only gave us pieces of paper and told us to bring the bikes into the hangar. Nothing more than that. She didn’t even know which copy of the paperwork she had to take.

The gent that was working at the counter yesterday morning, Friday 30 April, ensured me at least three times that the documentation was correct, complete, and that we could go. Not a single time did he mention that the customs stamp was still outstanding. I wouldn’t expect of you to make a customs appointment. That we would have done if he had told us that the documentation was NOT complete. I asked one of your employees about customs. He assured me that we didn’t have to worry, the customs people would come to the bikes.

I only can refer back to the German example. If the documentation were correct, as he had assured us, then the bikes had to fly yesterday morning. With a missing stamp the documentation was NOT correct and complete.

I love our laid-back attitude in South Africa, but when dealing with important matters I expect a more professional attitude. A professional company and professional employees do not call customers at midnight six hours before the aircraft was to depart to inform them that a customs stamp was still missing. Your company has to pay more attention to what pro-active versus re-active means.

To summarize, due to the unprofessional behaviour of your employees

a) Our bikes missed the last flight possible with LTU to Germany;
b) We cannot fly to Munich this coming Sunday evening;
c) I tried to cancel our flight tickets and SAA informed me that we would lose everything except the airport taxes;
d) It is unclear how much of the monies already paid for bike transport and ferries we are going to lose;
e) Many African kids stand the chance of losing the opportunity of having their facial deformities be repaired;
f) We lose the chance of experiencing a huge adventure, a life-long dream.

I know it is custom in South Africa to shift responsibility and to blame others. I know you told me it was our fault. With this letter I beg to differ. Sir, your employees and your system are mainly to blame.

My question to Swissport Cargo Services is: Ladies, Gents, what are you going to do about this?

Yours sincerely

Lodie de Jager

This letter will appear on the blog of

About Lodie

Africa, Africa, Africa!
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