Zimbabwe - Harare International Airport has apparently shut the runways to South African aircraft. A source flying out of Harare, Zimbabwe today bound for Johannesburg on an SAA flight told the reporter that his plane was denied permission to take off this morning, Saturday 19 August. The source who wished to remain anonymous is a Zimbabwean national who booked to travel to South Africa.

Zimbabwe keeps SAA flights on the ground at Harare International Airport

According to information received by the source, there was talk in the airport of SAA, the National Airline of South Africa, sending an unmarked Airbus to collect their passengers who are now stranded in Harare.

Later, while waiting for the flight to take off, the passengers were apparently advised by airport authorities that the plane was delayed because of a power outage. In a new development, unconfirmed reports suggest that a British flight was also refused to take off from the International airport. A passenger in South Africa, at the Oliver International Airport, tweeted that there is definitely some problem involving British flights into Zimbabwe.

While it can be assumed that the South Africans might be legitimate targets for tit for tat retribution, it is unclear how or why the British might also be a target for the Zimbabwean government.

On 18 August, Bulawayo 24 News reported that South Africa had grounded all Air Zimbabwe flights in the country as they owe millions in landing and maintenance fees. Following the decision by South Africa's Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA), the 7 PM flight out of South Africa bound for Harare was detained on the ground.

Grace Mugabe, tit for tat and diplomatic immunity

Air Zimbabwe, which is operated by President Mugabe's son in-law, Simba Chikore, in which he is the "de Facto" owner has been struggling with safety and financial issues. In May this year, Air Zimbabwe was refused permission to operate flights to the EU because of safety concerns.

The tit for tat grounding of SAA flights does not explain the alleged grounding of a British owned flight at Harare International Airport.

Another source who wishes to remain anonymous said to the reporter via a Watts App message, that it might be possible the flight that was denied departure was a Kulula Flight. Kulula is a South African no-frills airline, operating on major domestic routes from OR Tambo International Airport and Lanseria International Airport. It is operated by Comair and is a subsidiary franchise of British Airways.

Meanwhile, there are rumors arising that indicate there might be more to the grounding of SAA flights than just a tit for tat exercise. This week it was reported that President Robert Mugabe's wife Grace Mugabe was instructed to appear at a South African police Station, following a complaint filed by a model who was allegedly assaulted by Zimbabwe's first lady at an upmarket Sandton hotel.

News 24 reported that after she left South Africa without attending to the summons by the police, she is now seeking diplomatic immunity. According to their report, she has "claimed diplomatic immunity after allegedly assaulting Gabriella Engels nearly a week ago -- the reason for which is not known." One person tweeted, that Mugabe himself is involved.

The Zimbabweans on the ground in the Harare International Airport now face a dilemma. Many of them wish to just go back home, but according to this reporters source, as they received an exit stamp when they passed through Immigration, they require an entrance stamp into South Africa before they can be allowed back into the country.

Essentially, Zimbabweans who want to give up and go home simply cannot depart the airport. Effectively this has made them hostages by their own government at their own Airport.

Why target British Airways?

Another passenger who has been liaising with this reporter via twitter, just said that a British Airways flight is now being boarded as is a flight to Mozambique. In the meantime, SAA passengers are still on the ground.

There are no new images accompanying this news, as it is against the law in Zimbabwe to take photographs of government infrastructure. At this time there is no response to a Twitter inquiry to British Airways asking for any confirmation.