South Africa


Ryanair drops Afrikaans ‘prove you are South African’ quiz after backlash

(Photo: EPA / ANDY RAIN)

After intense backlash for making South African passport holders do an Afrikaans quiz to prove they are South Africans and their passports aren’t fake, budget airline Ryanair has dropped the quiz.

South Africans abroad have welcomed Ryanair’s decision to drop the Afrikaans test, which “from a sociolinguistic perspective was absurd”, said Conrad Steenkamp, the CEO of the Afrikaans Language Board.  

“There are 20 million people who understand Afrikaans, which means the remainder of the population wouldn’t be able to take the test,” Steenkamp told Daily Maverick.  

South Africa has 11 official languages. About 12% of the population speak  Afrikaans as a first language in South Africa, while 25% of the population speak isiZulu. 

A week ago, Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary told the BBC: “We have ended the Afrikaans test because it doesn’t make any sense.”  

Anyone who failed the test was refused travel and refunded the cost of their ticket. Ryanair initially defended the test, saying it received a fine for every passenger found to have travelled on a fake passport.

South African travellers took to social media to criticise the airline’s policy.  

Petronia Reddy, who was travelling to Ireland from the UK, said she was told if she was unable to fill in the form, it proved she wasn’t South African.  

Hayley Reichert, who is based in London, said: “Such tests are ludicrous. Next, they’ll be asking everyone to prove their South Africanness through DNA tests.”  

Ryanair, Europe’s largest airline, said it had implemented the test “due to the recent increase in passengers attempting to travel on fraudulent South African passports”.  

“The real problem lies in our own government’s incompetence,” said Reichert. 

“The Department of Home Affairs needs to be held fully accountable, both in terms of the lack of security and biometric measures implemented in creating documents such as passports which make South African documentation an easy target, but added to that is the level of fraud and corruption by Home Affairs staff resulting in identity theft.”  

The questions asked on the form included:

  • On which side of the road do you drive in South Africa?
  • What is South Africa’s international dialling code?
  • What is the name of South Africa’s biggest city?
  • Who is the current president of South Africa?
  • Name one of South Africa’s national public holidays.

The Department of Home Affairs said it was “taken aback” by the airline’s policy. The department said it had a 24-hour centre that airlines can contact to validate South African travel documents.

The DA’s Manny de Freitas said: “The root of the problem is, therefore, the South African government, which clearly does not have stringent enough processes to ensure the integrity of South African passports.”  

When the Minister of Home Affairs, Aaron Motsoaledi, gave the department’s Budget Vote speech earlier this month, he said the department remained “unflinching” in its commitment to fight corruption. 

On Monday, a Home Affairs official who fraudulently issued a South African passport to a man from Bangladesh was arrested

Sunday World reported that an internal document revealed that a criminal network – which includes 13 foreign nationals and 13 South Africans – had found its way into Home Affairs via corrupt officials.

The report, prepared for Motsoaledi, showed that at the Maponya Mall in Soweto, three officials – including an office manager – helped more than 50 foreign nationals obtain fake passports. At the Germiston office, two officials helped 15 foreign nationals secure fraudulent passports. 

Ryanair did not respond to questions about what measures they had implemented to detect fake South African passports. DM


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  • had to be the biggest marketing disaster ever! how silly can an organisation be especially one like Ryanair that has been in business for so long. Beggars belief.

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