Skip to content

How One Man and his Cellphone in Canada Rescued a Group of Africans Stuck in China

Tertius Myburgh worked in aviation for decades in Southern Africa as a pilot and operations manager. He recently moved to Canada where he is running a charter company from his dining room. As the number of paying passengers who needed repatriation became clear, Myburgh used his Southern African links to lease a Boeing 767, plus its pilots and its crew, from Air Zimbabwe. It was the same 30-year-old plane that had been used by former President Robert Mugabe from time to time. That plane then unlocked the assistance of Zimbabwean diplomats. Plotting a route that would make a frequent flyer’s eyes water, the plane and crew began their journey from Zimbabwe in mid-July. They flew from Harare to Johannesburg, and on to Bangkok, before heading to Kuala Lumpur (KL), where they picked up stranded commercial seafarers from China. The sailors’ company helped bear the costs of the charter. From Kuala Lumpur, they headed to Guangzhou, then back to Kuala Lumpur — since they weren’t authorized to take domestic routes in China — and on to Wuhan, to pick up most of the South Africans, before eventually making it back to Johannesburg.