Warren Thompson
5 minute read
31 May 2017
7:48 am

President Zuma flies Oppenheimer air

Warren Thompson

Radical Economic Transformation doesn’t fit into this picture.

It seems everything the president was spouting about Radical Economic Transformation and defeating White Monopoly Capital may not quite be true, well, at least insofar as his personal comfort is concerned.

In March 2016, a narrative about white monopoly capital capturing the state was propagated by parties including Black First Land First and individuals like Mzwanele Manyi, president of the Progressive Professionals’ Forum, ostensibly as a means of deflecting rather serious questions regarding the relationship between the president and the Gupta family. This coincided with Oakbay Investments entering into a contract with British public relations firm Bell Pottinger.

Read: Bell Pottinger pulls the plug on the Guptas

President Jacob Zuma even touched on the subject last December when addressing the ANC Youth League in KwaZulu-Natal. “You know‚ I listen to the news at times‚ at times I don’t. I heard some chamber from outside of this country demanding the president must go and some big business who also said so. And I realised it’s more the time that I will never on my own resign‚ because if I do so‚ I would be surrendering to the monopoly capital,” – according to quotes attributed to him in an article on Sowetan Live.

But Moneyweb can reveal that barely a few months before this, the president – whether knowingly or unknowingly – boarded one of the Oppenheimer family aircraft to fly to Kenya for a state visit that took place between October 10-12, 2016.

A PICTURE OF THE BOMBARDIER 6000 JET WITH REGISTRATION NUMBER ZS TDF USED BY THE OPPENHEIMERS AND THE ZUMAS. THE FORMER OWNS THE PLANE WHILE THE LATTER’S USE IS SPONSORED BY THE SOUTH AFRICAN TAXPAYER.

A PICTURE OF THE BOMBARDIER 6000 JET WITH REGISTRATION NUMBER ZS TDF USED BY THE OPPENHEIMERS AND THE ZUMAS. THE FORMER OWNS THE PLANE WHILE THE LATTER’S USE IS SPONSORED BY THE SOUTH AFRICAN TAXPAYER.

THE WELCOME MAT FOR CUSTOMERS BOARDING FLIGHTS AT FIREBLADE AVIATION WHICH CLEARLY DISPLAYS THE NAME OF “E OPPENHEIMER & SON”.

THE WELCOME MAT FOR CUSTOMERS BOARDING FLIGHTS AT FIREBLADE AVIATION WHICH CLEARLY DISPLAYS THE NAME OF “E OPPENHEIMER & SON”.

IT IS UNLIKELY THE PRESIDENT AND HIS DELEGATION WOULD HAVE ENDURED MUCH HARDSHIP ON THEIR FOUR-HOUR FLIGHT TO NAIROBI, AS PICTURES OF THE INSIDE OF THE AIRCRAFT REVEAL.  ALL IMAGES: FIREBLADE AVIATION

IT IS UNLIKELY THE PRESIDENT AND HIS DELEGATION WOULD HAVE ENDURED MUCH HARDSHIP ON THEIR FOUR-HOUR FLIGHT TO NAIROBI, AS PICTURES OF THE INSIDE OF THE AIRCRAFT REVEAL.
ALL IMAGES: FIREBLADE AVIATION

The Oppenheimer family, through a company called Fireblade Aviation (Pty) Ltd, offers a range of travel services to high net worth clients that include chartering aircraft it owns. The specific jet used for the Kenyan trip has registration number ZS-TDF.

The Fireblade Aviation website has a number of impressive pictures of the plane, which is listed as a Bombardier Global 6000. “The Global 6000 is a long-range Bombardier Global Express business jet with VIP seating for 12-14 passengers. The high cruise speed and long range capability of 6 000 nautical miles (11 200 kilometres) allows it to fly intercontinentally without refuelling,” reads the description on the site.

Fireblade confirmed the plane is often personally used by the Oppenheimer family, and did not deny the plane had been used to transport the presidential delegation on the trip referred to. “Fireblade does not contract directly with clients for the chartering of the ZS-TDF. We have a charter agreement with Vertis Aviation who charters the Global 6000 (ZS-TDF) from time to time for their clientele.

“We furthermore have a contractual obligation not to disclose the client lists of Vertis Aviation. Whilst Fireblade has several aircraft in their fleet, it is only the Global 6000 (ZS-TDF) that is chartered exclusively by Vertis. Their head offices are based in Zug, Switzerland, with branches in SA, UK and UAE,” said a Fireblade Aviation spokesperson.

The aircraft could also clearly be seen in a Twitter post by the President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, who posted a picture of himself bidding farewell to the president and First Lady Zuma (see below).

PRESIDENT UHURU KENYATTA WAVING GOODBYE TO PRESIDENT ZUMA AND FIRST LADY SIZAKELE ZUMA ABOARD THE OPPENHEIMER BOMBARDIER. THE DISTINCTIVE COLOURS OF THE AIRCRAFT ARE PLAIN TO SEE.

PRESIDENT UHURU KENYATTA WAVING GOODBYE TO PRESIDENT ZUMA AND FIRST LADY SIZAKELE ZUMA ABOARD THE OPPENHEIMER BOMBARDIER. THE DISTINCTIVE COLOURS OF THE AIRCRAFT ARE PLAIN TO SEE.

This all begs the question, why was the president – who has his travel arrangements organised by the Department of Defence (DoD) – using the Oppenheimer aircraft? Moneyweb understands that the presidential jet has been out of commission for a number of months, and consequently the airforce has been contracting certain privately-owned operators to provide aircraft for the president and other senior government officials.

In response to questions put by Moneyweb to the presidency around whether Zuma knew he was boarding a jet owned by the Oppenheimers, and whether it was appropriate given his desire to enact Radical Economic Transformation, the president’s spokesperson, Bongani Ngqulunga, provided the following response: “Air transportation for the president and deputy president is the responsibility of the Department of Defence (DoD). This includes the procurement thereof. The DoD is aware of the need to use black suppliers as part of the transformation imperative.”

Ngqulunga requested that we get in touch with the DoD to get more information on the procurement policy of the department.

The deeper question, however, points to whether this is hypocrisy on the part of the president and the ANC. Despite being characterised as the devil incarnate in many quarters of society, no one has yet provided a name or a face for White Monopoly Capital (WMC). All that we have been told by the ruling party is that it is imperative that South Africa radically transforms its economy, presumably away from the control of WMC … If so, can the Oppenheimers be included in WMC? And if they’re not, then who is? The president might not know which aircraft he personally flies in on non-routine scheduled visits like this one, but if he is to so ambitiously champion Radical Economic Transformation it might not be advisable to do so while flying around the world in a jet owned by one of the country’s richest (white) families, at taxpayers’ expense.

Brought to you by Moneyweb.

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