Oppenheimers file new court papers against Gigaba over airport terminal

The minister has hit back at the affluent family, saying they are ‘deliberately trying to feed into this silly idea that all black ministers are captured’.

The Oppenheimers, one of South Africa’s richest families, have reportedly launched a legal challenge against Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba after he rejected their application to grant international status to their seven-star private luxury terminal built at OR Tambo.

At the weekend, the Sunday Times reported that, in new court papers served against Gigaba last week by the family’s aviation company, Fireblade, to review and set aside his decision, they accused the minister of being captured by the controversial Gupta family at the centre of “state capture” allegations.

The luxury airport terminal would service the ultra-rich and allow foreign dignitaries and celebrities to go through customs and immigration at the Oppenheimer facility without using the main building.

Through their lawyers, Werksmans Attorneys, the Oppenheimers accused the Guptas of having “designs on securing an interest” in their airport and exerting pressure on Denel (Fireblade’s landlord) to induce Gigaba to reject their application, according to the paper.

Fireblade said Gigaba’s approval was vital for financial viability. They argued in their court papers that initially the minister had told the Oppenheimers had signed a letter of approval for their facility. However, on October 27, Gigaba made a U-turn and wrote to say he’d rejected their application.

This is apparently despite Oppenheimers’ lengthy paper trail of memos, MoUs, emails, letters and minutes stretching back three years, attached to court papers, showing that they had addressed all of Denel’s security concerns raised by the minister in his objection not to approve their application.

“The grounds on which revocation and refusal were said to be based do not bear scrutiny, and the minister did not endeavour to dispel the Gupta-created impression that he is in their grip,” said Fireblade director Robbie Irons in a supplementary affidavit filed last week.

Irons last month detailed in his founding affidavit how two Gupta pilots had apparently told him of the Guptas’ attempts to wrest control of the luxury terminal from the Oppenheimers.

Mayihlome Tshwete, Gigaba’s spokesperson, reportedly labelled the allegations