Oppenheimer ruling slated
A LANDMARK ruling in the High Court in Pretoria allowing the Oppenheimer family to operate customs and immigration services at OR Tambo International Airport has been described as the privatisation of government’s functions.
This is the view of professor Loren Landau of the African Centre for Migration and Society at Wits University.
Landau made the comment after Judge Sulette Potterill ruled that the former minister of Home Affairs and now Minister of Finance, Malusi Gigaba, did give the Oppenheimers, through their company Fireblade, permission to run customs and immigration services at OR Tambo International Airport.
The Oppenheimers lodged a court application after Gigaba denied that he had given them permission last January to go ahead with their plans.
The Oppenheimers argued that Gigaba reneged after Denel suddenly cited security concerns over the proposed terminal.
They argued that the Guptas were behind the backtracking.
Gigaba and Denel have denied the allegations against them.
But Judge Potterill ruled in favour of the family, saying Gigaba’s approval was “of force and effect and may not be revoked without due cause”.
She said Fireblade could implement and rely on the approval.
“This has been the argument of corporate South Africa, to put pressure on the government to facilitate the movement of highly skilled people to South Africa.
“In reality, it is the privatisation of the state function,” Landau said.
He made an example about the landing of hundreds of people at Waterkloof Air Base to attend the Guptas’ wedding at Sun City in 2013 without undergoing thorough security checks by local immigration officers employed by the government.
“To allow a family to run customs and immigration services suggest that the state is giving some of its responsibilities to private institutions.”
Home Affairs yesterday reacted to the ruling, saying they were “studying the contents of the judgment and will make an announcement in due course about the next steps in this regard”.
The EFF was irked by the high court’s ruling.
EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said: “We condemn this as a sign that this family seeks to use its financial power to continue enjoying the apartheid set-up of exclusive access and exit points for Europeans only.
“The VVIP will by and large be used by Europeans to the exclusion and marginalisation of the majority of non-Europeans, as it will be based on financial muscle,” Ndlozi added.