Tertius Myburgh – a South African expat living in Canada – used his knowledge in aviation and his phone to help repatriate 100 South Africans stuck in China.
South Africa (12 August 2020) – Tertius Myburgh, a commercial pilot, had recently moved to Canada when the lockdown in South Africa kicked in. Being in the aviation industry, a few people started to reach out, asking for help for either themselves or loved ones trapped in China.
Many thought his knowledge of the industry would be the key to helping them get home to South Africa. Tertius admits that he saw the project as a business opportunity but the more he worked on a plan to get the now 100 South Africans home and over a dozen Zimbabweans, the more the project became a compassion fueled task.
As Tertius was in Canada, he called on a few old contacts in the aviation industry and started to get the ball rolling. He managed to get a full crew and Boeing 767 from Air Zimbabwe and was approved to charter it from China to South Africa but that was only the beginning.
Since the global pandemic, the processes for chartering flights is completely different than it used to be. It takes more paperwork and approvals from various international bodies. And arranging a flight for over 100 individuals was just short of a logistical miracle.
To navigate the complexities of managing over 100 people, Tertius teamed up with a South African living and working in China. Carmen Johannie was a teacher in Guangzhou but after the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country, she realised she would be safer at home.
According to CNN, all people with African passports were forced into mandatory quarantine, a scary thought for anyone who isn’t sickly! There was also a rise in African nationals facing xenophobia and being forced out of their homes.
It was this very real threat that pushed Carmen and Tertius to get every South African and Zimbabwean back home as soon as legally possible.
Because Tertius was working with Air Zimbabwe, Zimbabwean diplomats took up the cause and started working with the Chinese government to get the permission needed for the repatriation flight to take place.
Once all the planning and diplomatic problems had been resolved, the flight took off from Harare and set off on a very complicated journey. There were multiple stops and collections before everyone was safely back on South African soil.
In-between all the stops, the Boeing’s engine went, and they had to contend with having that fixed too. People had no money after paying for their flights to Tertius ended up booking hotel rooms and sending money on his own account.
As mentioned above, when he started, it was an excellent business opportunity, but in the end, he lost thousands. What he gained in the process is a group of friends that are bonded for life because of a harrowing ordeal. He can also proudly call himself a hero because the effort put out there is that of only the greatest of men.
When they landed, the South African government took them to a quarantine complex where they all spent the next two weeks before being reunited with family.
Carmen will forever be grateful for the effort put in by Tertius, a hero who helped 100 South Africans without ever meeting any of them!
Sources: CNN / BCW Global – Supplied
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