Oppenheimers' OR Tambo deal - Fireblade responds

05 April 2018 - 07:53 By SABELO SKITI
Nicky Oppenheimer
Nicky Oppenheimer
Image: Robert Tshabalala

Fireblade Aviation has confirmed that Nicky Oppenheimer, and his son Jonathan, had discussions with the African National Congress (ANC) on a private terminal the family wanted to open at OR Tambo International Airport in 2015.

These discussions culminated in a letter, as reported in the Sunday Times on Sunday April 1, in which ANC general manager Ignatius Jacobs informed the family they would be granted approval by “the regulatory authority”.

Fireblade director Robbie Irons confirmed the letter in response to Sunday Times queries last Friday. Unfortunately, the response was not reflected in the story as it went into a spam folder.

The existence of the letter prompted several questions of what authority the ANC would have in what is clearly a government regulated issue, and why the Oppenheimer-owned business would need to consult them on the requirements thereof.

“The FBO (Fixed Base Operator) was (and is) the first of its kind in South Africa. This meant that ascertaining the requirements to be met and the approvals to be secured was an exploratory process,” Irons said in his response.

He continued: “From the time Nicky and Jonathan Oppenheimer committed initial capital of R150-million to establish the FBO, every effort was made to communicate their vision to South Africans from all walks of life, motivating the benefits for South Africa of an FBO that would attract high-end tourism and foreign investment into the country. Fireblade engaged with all obviously and even potentially relevant stakeholders, including the ruling party.”

Fireblade said besides the ANC, the company consulted with a number of other stakeholders including financial institutions and owners of private business jets. It is not clear which other private entities or political parties the company engaged.

The company said approval by the Minister of Home Affairs, in January 2016, came on the back of 27 other approvals for a process which started in late 2012.

These included approvals from the Ministers of Finance and Transport, the Airports Company of South Africa, the South African Civil Aviation Authority, the South African Police Service, and the South African Revenue Service.

“In February 2013 Fireblade was advised by the then Inter Agency Clearing Forum (chaired by the Director-General of Home Affairs) that an application for approval was to be submitted to the Minister of Home Affairs.

"In March 2013 Fireblade submitted its application to Minister (Naledi) Pandor. Fireblade liaised with her office until she was replaced by Minister (Malusi) Gigaba," said Irons. 

“At no stage during the process was any donation or other payment requested by the ANC from Fireblade, the Oppenheimer family or its related individuals or companies or provided by any of them to the ANC or any other stakeholder.”