NHS’s costly corpse boob

Paul Nyakazeya

KENYA Airways has terminated its contract with the National Handling Service (NHS) cargo handlers after they “forgot” to off-load a corpse at Harare International Airport from Nairobi, Kenya.

The body was flown back to Kenya, only for the family of the deceased who had flown with the body from Kenya to be advised of the “mistake” when the plane was already on its way to Kenya with other passengers.

“The process took rather long and they (family of the deceased) must have assumed that it was normal considering the paper work involved and the matter at hand. It was only after the paper work was done that the coffin could not be located,” insiders at NHS said.

Kenya Airways has since engaged the service of Aviation Ground Service (AGS) with effect from January 1 to handle their passengers’ goods. AGS handles cargo.

NHS is a subsidiary of Air Zimbabwe and has been a profit-making entity, unlike its parent company.

Sources said the family of the deceased — a Zimbabwean — had accompanied the body to Zimbabwe for burial.

“They were so angry with the development which they entirely blamed on the National Handling Service which had to pay for all expenses to repatriate the coffin,” an insider said.

Kenya Airways station manager in Harare Ephraim Musarurwa referred all questions to the airlines country manager Ruth Mawewe, who could not be reached at the time of going to press. Contacted for comment, Air Zimbabwe acting CEO Innocent Mavhunga, who was the general manager of NHS when the incident happened, referred all questions to Air Zimbabwe chairman Jonathan Kadzura.

“For now all media issues with regards to Air Zimbabwe and its subsidiaries are being handled by the board. I suggest you talk to the chairman. He is the one giving official comments on behalf of the airline,” Mavhunga said on Tuesday.

Kadzura confirmed that Kenya Airways had terminated its contract with NHS but said the coffin incident was not the reason why Kenya Airways had pulled out.

“They (Kenya Airways) were offered better rates by AGS. it had nothing to with the incident in question,” Kadzura said.

Insiders, however, insisted that the incident was the last straw for Kenya Airways who they said have not always been happy with the NHS’s  service.