MPs on the Portfolio Committee of Home Affairs intend to conduct an oversight visit to OR Tambo International Airport as part of their own fact-finding mission regarding the “Fireblade” private terminal saga.
Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba has been in and out of court lately to appeal a North Gauteng High Court judgment that sided with Fireblade Aviation, owned by the wealthy Oppenheimer family.
The Oppenheimers wanted the court to ensure that a deal signed by Gigaba in 2016, to set up a private terminal at the Johannesburg airport, be upheld, after the minister performed a last-minute U-turn.
It is alleged that Gigaba revoked the approval he had originally granted, under pressure from the Gupta family.
MPs met on Wednesday to discuss, among other things, the progress made thus far in getting key documents required for its full-scale inquiry into state capture at the department.
New committee chairperson Hlomani Chauke reminded MPs that they would need to decide on a date during Parliament‘s two-month-long recess – between mid-June and mid-August – to visit OR Tambo International.
“We must also get the letters from the minister for those who have applied for a similar arrangement. The minister said there was more than one [mega-wealthy family] who had applied [for a private terminal],” Chauke said.
“We can even invite those companies or families to ask them why they have an interest in our national key points. Why do you want to occupy our national key points?”
Democratic Alliance MP Hanif Hoosen said his party was happy that the committee was looking into the matter.
However, he said the Fireblade matter must also be included in the committee‘s over-arching “state capture” inquiry, which has thus far focused mainly on how the Guptas received early citizenship.
Hoosen alleged, during the department‘s budget vote earlier this month, that Gigaba‘s “about-turn” against the Oppenheimers came as a result of an alleged request by a Gupta associate, of which there was prima facie evidence.
The committee, therefore, needed to probe that issue too, he said.
Gigaba, meanwhile, has not given up the court battle just yet to get his own decision overturned in the courts.
The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in March dismissed Gigaba’s appeal against the high court judgment, which had also found that he had “lied under oath”.
Gigaba and his department have since obtained fresh legal opinion advising that they could make a solid case before the Constitutional Court to undo Gigaba‘s agreement, City Press reported in April.
The minister was convinced that, should the judgment not be reversed, this would encourage other wealthy South Africans to feel entitled to their own airport terminals, leading to an uncontrollable flood, the report read.
The Constitutional Court will have to decide whether a minister can effectively sign a contract with a private party to allow for state resources to be placed at the disposal of a private party for its own commercial interests.