-“Why are you frustrated?” the policelady asks me. -“Because I am arrested without knowing why.” -“You are not arrested….” She insists I’m not arrested even if she has taken my passport and has asked me to sit down – now almost for 2 hours in a police office somewhere in the hidden parts of Oliver Tambo International airport. Some hours later when I am sitting in the airplane the purser says; -“We have been informed about you. It’s confidential information, so we can’t tell you.” And that is where I fell totally abandoned by rule of law. I mean, its ok – I’m on a flight home. I should be in a safe environment in a couple of hours. I Think. I will never ever travel to South Africa again. I will never ever fly with South African Airways again. But the feeling of being accused without knowing what one is accused of is a strange feeling. An awkward feeling. A feeling noone should feel. If one is accused – one should know what one is accused of. This happened to me for a couple of hours – but I know there are people suffering this for years. Somewhere. Accused without knowing for what. South Africa – a country I have really really liked. First time I visited was the year 2000. CapeTown. Penguins. Good food. Brilliant white wine. Thereafter 3 or 4 new visits. Mainly Pretoria for work. Still good food. Still nice shopping. And then January 2015. Everything changed. Landing in Johannesburg January 1st. -“Have you reported your passport as stolen?” -“No? It’s here – you are holding it.” -“Wait here..” A policeofficer comes and asks me to follow – we pick up my luggage and we go to the police station in the darker corridors of the airport. Grey dirty carpet on the floor. Into a room – Cell no 1 it says outside. We go through my luggage. I have to do some sort of half undressing. -“What has this to do with my “stolen” passport?” -“Nothing. Its not about your passport. It’s about you.” But that is the only information I get. It’s about me. But what about me? No answer given. I try – “Is it because I travel so much?” No answer. -“Is it because of my travels to Peru?” No answer. But after all checking they release me. I stay 4 days in Sandton and really like the food and almost forget that strange airport procedure. Until this morning. Back at the airport. 3 hours before flight. I want to have breakfast. I want to do some shopping. After all – Oliver Tambo Airport is a great shoppingmall. But no. Passport control. -“Can you wait here? There is something about your passport..” So back to the policestation. My handluggage is checked. Of course nothing strange to be found there. Even if the contactlenses are suspiciously checked. (Same procedure as last Thursday). But this time I dont have to take my pants off. But then its the checked in luggage that has to be checked aswell. And…. the solution for this is to sit in the policestation for 2 1/2 hours (!) until its time to board the plane ….. The police claims there is no chance of finding the suitcase otherwise. So I sit and sit and sit. And try to start a conversation about my right to information. -“You have done nothing wrong. Just sit here.” -“But if I haven’t done anything wrong – why can i not leave and we meet at the gate? You have my passport after all?” -“No.” So – when the flight is ready for boarding, we rush – me and my accompanying policeofficer to the gate. Long walk. And of course the boarding is by bus- and for this the police has no routines … After discussions forth and back the airline lets the policeofficer in company of a SAA staff follow me in the bus to the plane. Luggage is picked out and there we sit on the tarmac going through all dirty clothes and all toys bought for the dog. And.. gelatine. -“What is this?” The absurd situation when sitting under an Airbus 320 explaining how to use gelatine. But after all checking – the police officer gives me a ok, shakes hand and I board the plane. It’s over. I thought. But no– the purser on board seems not to have received the information that all is cleared. -“We have got information about you but its confidential..” -“So why do you tell me this then?” He refuses to answer. I call him back. -“Why do you treat me as a criminal?” He leaves without answering. So this gives me the only options I can use in this Kafka-absurd situation. 1. Never fly with SouthAfrican Airways again. 2. Never ever visit South Africa again. Of course I understand passangers and their luggage has to be checked and some passangers picked out for extra control. But both when entering and when leaving the country? I understand one has to check luggage – but why not do that at check in if one passanger is suspected? Why not use x-ray and dogs? But most important of all – why not inform the passanger about his/hers rights? Being kept in a police station for 2 1/2 hours without getting information on why – should not be the case. So what can I do? Not much. Continue to wonder why I was picked out. And probably never get the answer. And think about those who are not released from police cells as quickly as I was. But meanwhile I will not travel to South Africa anymore – or fly with SouthAfricanAirways. So what went wrong? Hmm.. my theory is that I do look suspicious when checking my movements around the world. I do travel much. I have many many trips to and from Peru (if one does not know I lived there for 5 years I do look like a merchant of some kind travelling forth and back to Peru). But no questions raised on why I travel. No asking what I do for a living (which would explain the travelling). But ok to suspect me last Thursday. And that took around 30 minutes. But today – my theory is that someone forgot to take away the “warning – here comes a suspicious traveller!” from the computer system. And no – this does not happen to many people all the time. This morning I saw in the logbook at passportcontrol that last person controlled before me was … 4 days ago. And before that some few controlled in December and some in November.
One month later;
> Swedish Embassy – “We can’t do anything. Maybe you should contact the SouthAfrican Embassy.”
> South African Police –“We will investigate and let you know.”
> South African Airways – total silence.