Pretoria - The Oppenheimers have yet again turned to court to try and enforce and order to immediately operate an international customs and immigration service component at their company, Fireblade’s VVIP centre at OR Tambo International Airport.
But the hope is that this can now be achieved by February 12 at the latest.
Gauteng High Court, Pretoria Judge Sulet Potterill in October last year gave Fireblade the green light to run the customs and immigration services.
Despite various court applications, mainly brought by the Department of Home Affairs in its attempts to appeal Judge Potterill’s ruling, and an undertaking made by it at the end of last month that the company could go ahead with the running of its VVIP centre, Fireblade was still not able to do so.
This was apparently due to technical reasons cited by home affairs.
But the company is now confident that it will be all systems going, as it and the director-general of the department, Mkuseli Apleni, have reached an agreement on Wednesday with the company.
In terms of this agreement Apleni unconditionally undertook to give effect to Judge Potterill’s order, by ensuring that ad hoc immigration services are rendered to all international movements at Fireblade’s fixed-based operation at OR Tambo International Airport.
It was agreed that this undertaking would remain in place pending the finalisation of all proceedings pending before the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein and the Constitutional Court.
Home Affairs Minister Ayanda Dlodlo has not yet given her blessing to the agreement and it was agreed that she would be allowed to, at her earliest convenience, indicate in writing to the parties whether she consented to the terms of this order.
But this could only be a temporarily measure, as the department indicated that it will appeal Judge Potterill’s ruling before the Constitutional Court.
Its first hurdle, however, is to obtain leave to appeal from the Constitutional Court, as the high court had refused this.
In terms of an agreement reached two days after Christmas, both the minister of Home Affairs and the department agreed to immediately give effect to Judge Potterill’s judgment and to render the immigration services at the airport to the Oppenheimers, pending the final outcome of any appeals on the matter.
Fireblade, however, this week returned to the urgent court as it was not able to run any international movements yet, due to the technical reasons advanced by home affairs.
The hearing, however, never took place as the case stood down for the parties to once again negotiate an agreement. The legal teams eventually shortly before lunch time told Acting Judge Tony Thobane that they had reached an agreement.
They told the Pretoria News that they will later issue a statement containing the details of the agreement, but it was confirmed that if all went well, immigration services will be available from February 12 when the Oppenheimer’s airplanes touched down at their own terminal.
Judge Potterill last year ruled that the former Minister of Home Affairs and now Minister of Finance, Malusi Gigaba, did give the Oppenheimer’s, through their company Fireblade, permission to run customs and immigration services at the airport.
The minister in turn, vehemently denied that he ever gave the permission.
The Oppenheimer’s lodged their application after Gigaba denied that he had given them permission in January 2016 to go ahead with their plans.
They argued that Gigaba went back on his word after Denel suddenly cited security concerns over the proposed terminal.
They argued that the Guptas were behind the backtracking. Judge Potterill, however, concluded that Gigaba’s approval was “of force and effect and may not be revoked without due cause”.
While home affairs indicated that it would appeal these rulings, the court earlier ordered that in spite of whatever further legal action they took, home affairs must in the meantime provide the Oppenheimers with a customs and immigration services at their exclusive terminal at the airport.