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Other businesses also want in on Fireblade deal, says Home Affairs minister

Feb 19 2019 12:42
Khulekani Magubane, Fin24

Home Affairs minister Siyabonga Cwele has told Parliament's portfolio committee on home affairs that more businesses have come forward wanting to offer private airport terminal services similar to those of Fireblade.

Cwele said it was for this reason that clarity was needed in the form of legislation.

Fireblade Aviation is a private business which operates a VIP private terminal at OR Tambo International airport, providing air travel services. It presently has an agreement with government following a previous legal dispute with former Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba.

While Malusi Gigaba was minister, Fireblade - owned by billionaire Nicky Oppenheimer - concluded an agreement with the department to provide services at the privately owned terminal.

While Gigaba disputed this - and the deal seemed to fly in the face of airport, immigration and national keypoint regulations - the agreement was upheld by the courts.

In November last year Parliament directed the Department of Home Affairs to seek an agreement that does not violate the court order, but also secures national security and the authority of the state over ports of entry.

Tuesday's meeting was the first time the department has formally updated Parliament on the matter since Gigaba resigned as minister of home affairs in November last year.

'We need to be clear to all stakeholders'

Cwele told the committee that while the department had found an agreement which worked for both government and Fireblade, he was aware that other business were coming forward to offer private airport terminal services similar to those of Fireblade.

"We need to be clear to all stakeholders. I am informed that there are others who are waiting. It's not me. I don't have an aircraft yet," Cwele quipped.

"But others are waiting to make applications, so we need legislation to clarify confusion," he said.

Fireblade founder and chair Nicky Oppenheimer told the committee that Fireblade has a renewable lease with Denel for a period of ten years to operate a private terminal at OR Tambo International Airport. The lease started in January 2014, he added.

Cwele told the committee that another factor to consider was the Border Management Authority, which will have the power to function at ports of entry once the Border Management Authority Bill is signed into law.

"Border Management Authority legislation which relates to these matters is still in Parliament and must be concluded in the NCOP. That legislation talks about enforcement and security measures," Cwele said.

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