OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. Picture: ACSA
OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. Picture: ACSA

Judgment is expected on Friday in an appeal lodged by the Department of Home Affairs against a recent court ruling granting the Oppenheimer family the right to run an international luxury terminal at OR Tambo airport.

Oppenheimer aviation company Fireblade said in new court papers filed this month that its accumulated losses from delays in being able to offer international customs and immigration facilities at the terminal now amounted to R373m.

Fireblade said its business model was premised on being able to offer facilities for international flights. Its main revenue driver was fuel, hangar fees and ramp parking. "All these revenue sources will remain depressed for as long as the [terminal] cannot handle international flights," Fireblade said.

In court papers, the Oppenheimers had accused Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba, who was minister of home affairs at the time, of reversing his approval for the airport following pressure from the Guptas.

In October, North Gauteng High Court Judge Sulet Potterill ruled that Gigaba’s approval remained in force and could be implemented by Fireblade.

The home affairs application for leave to appeal had the effect of suspending Potteril’s order.

The department said in court papers that Potteril should have accepted Gigaba’s version that he had not granted final approval because it would be beyond his powers to designate a port of entry for exclusive private use by the family.

Potteril had rejected this argument by pointing out that flying by definition excluded those who could not afford it and Gigaba was not being asked to declare a new port of entry as the Oppenheimer terminal was located inside an airport that was already an entry port.

The Oppenheimers also applied for an enforcement order of Potteril’s judgment while the home affairs appeal was pending.

Rulings for both applications are expected on Friday.


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