Cape Town - Senior government ministers have insisted that all laws and regulations were followed when the President of the United Arab Emirates, Sheik Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan landed at an Eastern Cape airport with a large entourage.
Al Nahyan was said to have travelled with 500 guests when he landed at Bulembu airport in Bhisho, with a tarmac said to have been built by him, while he spent time at his game reserve.
Minister of Home Affairs, Aaron Motsoaledi said on Friday Al Nahyan had landed at the Bulembu airport after a request was made that it be declared a port of entry because of the large entourage and cargo.
Minister in the Presidency responsible for State Security Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said they sent in officials from the Department of Home Affairs, SAPS, South African Revenue Service, customs, transport and other departments to clear Al Nayhan and his delegation arriving in the Eastern Cape.
She said all protocol was followed when the entourage arrived in the country.
Ntshavheni said despite the fact that this was a private visit by a head of state, Al Nahyan had informed the Department of International Relations and Cooperation before he arrived in South Africa.
This allowed all relevant departments to start making the necessary preparations.
Ntshavheni said this included providing Presidential security protection to Al Nayhan, as happens with any head of state who comes to the country, whether on an official or private visit.
Motsoaledi said the president of the UAE was travelling with people from 32 different countries.
He said some of the countries did not need visas to enter South Africa, but others needed visas and they were obtained in the South African embassy in the UAE.
Motsoaledi said the UAE falls in the category of countries where a visa was not required to get into South Africa.
“People from the UAE do not need visas, but the president was accompanied by people from other countries, which need visas. These were people from 32 different countries. Those who need visas to enter South Africa and we gave them. Furthermore, he was accompanied by some people from the US, Europe and Canada. As you know people from the US, Europe and Canada do not need visas to enter South Africa,” said Motsoaledi.
On whether Al Nahyan flew directly from the UAE, Motsoaledi said they would not know.
But from the request that was made, they wanted to land at Bulembu airport in Bhisho because of the large entourage and cargo they were carrying.
“Part of the reason why to declare that place a port of entry is because the flight could land at OR Tambo, Cape Town International Airport and King Shaka. But they wanted to land directly in the Eastern Cape because of the amount of cargo. But otherwise we don’t know if they landed in any other country before they landed here,” said Motsoaledi.