Fireblade chairperson and billionaire Nicky Oppenheimer has accused Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba of lying to Parliament.
Oppenheimer was accompanied by his son Jonathan, and former Northern Cape premier Manne Dipico, who is a director in the company, when he briefed Parliament’s portfolio committee on home affairs on Tuesday morning.
The meeting was stormed by members of Black First Land First (BLF) – led by their president Andile Mngxitama.
They were forcibly removed from the venue by burly “bouncers” called in by the committee’s chairperson Hlomani Chauke.
“This family is a criminal family. You are allowing them to lie to you. Nicky and his father went to the ANC congress. They captured the ANC,” Mngxitama said.
“What were they doing in the ANC? Fireblade must be shut down. Shut down Fireblade,” Mngxitama chanted before being thrown out.
Oppenheimer senior said that he had come to the committee to give “the whole truth and nothing but the truth”.
The matter relates to the deal signed by Gigaba in 2016 to allow Fireblade to set up a private terminal at the Johannesburg airport.
Gigaba performed a last-minute U-turn and revoked the approval he had originally granted, allegedly under pressure from the Gupta family.
At Tuesday’s committee meeting, Oppenheimer senior said he “took offense” when Gigaba insinuated that he had bribed someone at Home Affairs in order to attain the necessary approval to operate.
Gigaba was found to have lied under oath by the North Gauteng High Court earlier this year which ruled in favour of the Oppenheimers who argued that Gigaba had in fact approved the terminal before reneging on the agreement.
The minister will now be called to the hot seat again to account to Parliament for lying and also to give clarity on why Home Affairs has not signed off on an agreement with Fireblade which allows them to operate internationally by way of providing customs and immigration services.
Oppenheimer senior told Parliament that Fireblade had received 27 approvals across government departments and entities for the terminal and that Home Affairs was the last link in the chain.
Engagements with government had begun in 2012. By 2016, with approval from Home Affairs still outstanding, the family approached Gigaba on January 28 2016 where he then allegedly agreed to approve.
Chairperson of the committee, Hlomani Chauke, and other MPs expressed shock that there was no signed agreement between Fireblade and Home Affairs, outlining the rules of engagement.
The Oppenheimers claimed that the agreement was yet to be signed off by Home Affairs, but that it does in fact exist.
To date Fireblade has seen 13 884 “movements” – 691 of these have been international flights.
The Oppenheimers were at pains to emphasise that the terminal was not a personal one for the convenience of their family.
They said that of the total flights, only 5% were taken by the family and internationally only 6%.
“It was never intended for Fireblade to be exclusively or even conceivably exclusively for the Oppenheimer family.
"It was intended to be a gateway for South Africa, to be a high quality, superior product as is offered elsewhere in the world,” Oppenheimer junior said.