Minister of Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba arrives at parliament to face the committee on home affairs and is expected to face tough questions from MP's on November 6 2018. PICTURE: ESA ALEXANDER/SUNDAYTIMES
Minister of Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba arrives at parliament to face the committee on home affairs and is expected to face tough questions from MP's on November 6 2018. PICTURE: ESA ALEXANDER/SUNDAYTIMES

Embattled home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba has called for wider public consultation on the awarding of VVIP terminals to private operators following the Fireblade scandal, which looks set to lead to his axing from the government.

Parliament’s home affairs portfolio committee has been pushing to get to the bottom of the Fireblade matter, in which he is alleged to have overturned approval for the Oppenheimer-owned Fireblade Aviation to operate a private customs and immigration service at OR Tambo International Airport.

Last week, the Constitutional Court dismissed Gigaba's application for leave to appeal against a lower court ruling that he lied under oath in the Fireblade matter. Gigaba lost his appeal to a full bench of the high court‚ as well as an appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal‚ and had decided to take the matter to the Constitutional Court.

The public protector also found that Gigaba had violated the constitution and the Executive Ethics Code in relation to the case. The public protector gave President Cyril Ramaphosa 14 days to act against Gigaba.

The DA has also approached the courts in a bid compel Ramaphosa to axe Gigaba and minister in the presidency Bathabile Dlamini following damning judgments against them.

Gigaba, who has also been caught up in a sex-tape scandal, has accused some parliamentary committees of being part of a plot to derail his political career.

Last week in Parliament, the Oppenheimers insisted they obtained all the necessary approvals to operate a private terminal at OR Tambo International Airport and dismissed claims that they had bribed senior government officials ahead of the deal being finalised.

Gigaba and senior home affairs officials appeared before the portfolio committee on Tuesday night. However, MPs were at odds on how to proceed with the matter following the Constitutional Court ruling and the findings by the public protector. Earlier indications were that Gigaba would be given the opportunity to respond directly to claims by the Oppenheimers.

“The horse has already bolted … the courts and public protector have pronounced on this matter ... we would find ourselves in [violation] of the constitution if we discuss this matter,” said COPE leader Mosiuoa Lekota.

However, DA MP Haniff Hoosen insisted on Gigaba being allowed to discuss the Oppenheimer matter and telling his side of the story.

Committee chairman Hlomane Chauke sided with other MPs who suggested that allowing Gigaba to discuss the matter could create legal complications since the issue had been pronounced on by the courts and the public protector.

Chauke said the interest of the committee was "the way forward”, especially regarding the services rendered by government departments to the Oppenheimers' terminal. Chauke also said the committee was not involved in any plot against Gigaba.

The Oppenheimers told the committee last week that they paid home affairs about R117,000 a month for services. "Also, it is unacceptable that the meagre amount being paid by Fireblade only goes to [home affairs] and there is no clear standard on how this amount was arrived at,” Chauke said.

In his remarks to the committee, Gigaba said he would confine himself to “operational issues”.

“As we indicated in the meeting of May, there is still no policy on private VVIP terminals. This being the first one of its kind … it means now a policy has to be developed so a framework can be provided on how such issues are dealt with going forward. Another question that arises is whose custody is this? Airports are under the department of transport, and the department of home affairs only renders a service … Given the precedent now set, what is the procurement process for such VVIP terminals? The entire government process of awarding contracts and tenders in government needs to be clarified. What we are saying is we are going to take to cabinet a discussion which will take into consideration the implications that have arisen as a result of this decision,” said Gigaba.

He said that public input on the matter would be required.

phakathib@businesslive.co.za

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