Department of Transport Minister Blade Nzimande has asked the board of Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) to commission a report on the landing of the Gupta-family private aircraft at the Waterkloof Air Force Base. This comes ahead of the minister’s possible appearance at the state capture inquiry.
The aircraft ferried members of Gupta family in 2013 for the infamous Sun City wedding and landed at a national key point — a strong indicator of how the family wielded enormous political influence in the administration of former president Jacob Zuma.
Nzimande told shareholders at Acsa’s annual general meeting on Friday that he wants the board to complete its report on the Waterkloof aircraft plane landing in the next 14 working days.
Acsa is a state-owned entity that manages SA’s nine biggest airports including OR Tambo International Airport, King Shaka International and others. The state, represented by Nzimande, is a 74.6% shareholder of Acsa.
Nzimande told shareholders that the commissioned report should determine whether Acsa has played any role in the landing of the Gupta plane at Waterkloof Air Force Base.
“There is the Zondo commission [of inquiry into state capture chaired by deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo] and I am being threatened to appear potentially in relation to some of the matters,” he said. “I want you [the Acsa board] to give me the truth so that I know exactly what happened.”
A government investigation into the landing of the Gupta-owned plane found that an initial attempt was made by the family to organise a special landing at Acsa’s OR Tambo airport. The attempt to land at the airport was turned down but the Guptas managed to secure a landing at Waterkloof base with the help of the Indian High Commission, the investigation found.
Gigaba and Fireblade
Nzimande has also asked the board of Acsa to investigate and produce a report on Oppenheimer family’s request to operate a private terminal at OR Tambo International Airport, through the family’s firm Fireblade Aviation.
The matter, which has pitted the Oppenheimer family against home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba, is subject to an ongoing probe by a parliamentary committee.
Nzimande said Gigaba told him on the sidelines that he doesn’t “know why home affairs would be the ultimate authority on the matter” as if anything “this is a Department of Transport matter strictly speaking”.
“[This means that] decisions were made somewhere else. So, I need a report within the next 14 working days,” Nzimande told Acsa shareholders.
He wants the investigation by the board to probe what Acsa knows about Fireblade and what role it played in the private terminal at OR Tambo airport. “I want all the information as I might be summoned to the home affairs committee [in Parliament],” he said.