Home Affairs Minister Ayanda Dlodlo has joined forces with recently reinstated home affairs director-general Mkhuseli Apleni in opposing an exclusive customs and immigration service for international VIPs at the Oppenheimer family’s Fireblade Aviation facility at OR Tambo International Airport.
The high court ruled in October that Dlodlo’s predecessor, Malusi Gigaba, had granted permission for the immigration service at Fireblade’s seven-star terminal at OR Tambo and that the decision was of force and effect and could be implemented by Fireblade.
Judge Sulet Potterill at the time rejected the minister’s argument that final approval had not been granted and that Fireblade’s intention was “to create an island for the exclusive use of the Oppenheimers and the like”.
She said the whole nature of flying was exclusionary and there was a vast difference between commercial flying and chartered and private air transport. The order was, however, suspended by home affairs’ application for leave to appeal, resulting in Fireblade having to cancel its first planned international flight.
Fireblade, in turn, applied for an enforcement order enabling them to operate internationally while the appeal process was pending. Judgment is expected in both applications this week.
Home affairs maintained in court papers Judge Potterill had erred in failing to consider their counter-application for an order declaring that the power of the minister to designate a place as a port of entry could only be used where such a port of entry was accessible to all persons.
The department argued that the court should have accepted the minister’s version that there was no final approval. It found that Fireblade had applied to run a parallel port of entry, which was impermissible in terms of the Immigration Act, as it would not be available to the public as a whole.
Fireblade described the appeal bid as inexplicable and legally unsustainable, especially where home affairs was currently already providing immigration services at privately owned facilities such as the Lanseria, Kruger and Pilansberg airports.
Fireblade said it had been negotiating with all stakeholders for the past four years and invested millions, but their losses have now accumulated to over R372.7 million. The company said the ongoing financial losses and missed opportunities was not just to Fireblade’s detriment, but to the South African economy as a whole.