Fireblade saga: Gigaba 'owes us an explanation'

As Parliament’s portfolio committee on home affairs gathered on Tuesday evening for what promised to be a marathon meeting with Minister of Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba on the Fireblade Aviation saga, committee members grappled for 40 minutes over just what they wanted to hear from him.

The Fireblade saga saw the minister facing a North Gauteng High Court ruling that he lied under oath when he said he did not approve the operation of a privately-owned air traffic terminal owned by the Oppenheimer family.

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane also released a report on the matter, with its remedial action directing President Cyril Ramaphosa to discipline Gigaba for perjuring himself and violating the Constitution as a member of the executive.

Wary members

Committee members appeared keenly aware of the implications and legal weight of the Public Protector’s report, as well the court ruling.

Committee chair Hlomane Chauke said that as the minister had already briefed the committee about this matter before Fireblade chair Nicky Oppenheimer did last week, it was vital that the nature of Gigaba’s submission be clearly defined – so as to sustain the authority of the courts, as well as Gigaba’s right to appeal.

Committee member for the African National Congress (ANC) Nomhle Dambuza argued against unnecessary debate, saying: "I want to run away from a situation where we debate the court ruling. We have had a chance to look at the court ruling as MPs. It now depends on us as a committee to prevent a fallout."

Congress of the People (COPE) MP Mosiuoa Lekota pointed out the complications that the meeting presented, as Mkhwebane made findings and remedial actions, but Ramaphosa would have to consider these.

Committee member for the Democratic Alliance (DA) Haniff Hoosen said Gigaba should explain his actions, saying: "The courts have already made a decision that the minister lied under oath, and we have a duty to accept that.

"There is no point having a debate on whether the minister lied. I still think that the minister owes us an explanation if we are to satisfy the function of oversight."

Chauke said the committee must have a common understanding of what it wanted, and allow minister and the department to clarify the issue and the committee’s understanding of what transpired.

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