The Oppenheimer-owned Fireblade Aviation (Pty) Ltd is bullying Denel into flouting security measures so that it can establish a new port of entry into South Africa at its luxury aircraft facility.
In papers in the Gauteng High Court, Fireblade is demanding that Denel, from whom it leases space for its 7-star operation, should withdraw its objection to an application it (Fireblade) has made to the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) for a customs and immigration service at its facility.
The service, if granted, would allow passengers from around the world, who didn’t want to go through the OR Tambo International Airport and its laborious checks to go straight through to Fireblade and into the country.
Denel is objecting to the application on the basis of “security concerns” which it says include the risk of drug and human trafficking and illicit smuggling of material such as money, precious metals and weaponry.
Denel is a strategic state asset that operates within the defence systems, weaponry and military related projects, both nationally and internationally and it argues that due to the nature of its business, the “security risk to personnel, material, information, secrets and espionage are real and serious”.
In addition to risks of espionage and illicit smuggling, Denel is situated in an area called Kempton Park Campus which is designated as a National Key Point. As such all companies operating in the area have to comply with security policies and procedures enforced by the National Key Points Act.
The Oppenheimer business offers services for private aircraft and their passengers. The property is owned by the Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA) which is Denel’s landlord. Denel in turn sub leases to Fireblade.
At the heart of the dispute is Fireblade’s non-compliance with security regulations and laws stipulated for areas designated as National Key Points.
Denel is demanding that each Fireblade employee should be vetted to minimise security risks that may be caused by personnel.
Since its establishment in 2013, communication between security enforcement personnel including Denel indicate that the billionaire’s aircraft facility was in breach of security stipulations for areas designated as National Key Point.
Fireblade argues that Denel’s objection constitutes a breach of lease contract. It contends that it’s proposals to Denel on sub-letting the premises and viability of the company thereof, were based on the ability to include permission to provide the customs and immigration services.
Security concerns a “recent phenomenon”
Fireblade says the defence company’s objection to the application on the basis of security concerns is a “recent phenomenon”. However, records show that Fireblade is being conservative with the truth. The issue of security screening dates back to 2013 shortly after the Oppenheimer aircraft was established. On 9 April 2013, E Sihlangu sent a letter to Robert Irons of Fireblade advising him of the need to screen everyone who comes through the premises. He also provides the names of the organisations that provide the vetting services. “All campus residents, contractors, suppliers and international visitors are subjected to security screening…The following screening agencies are utilised to determine an individual’s integrity to have access to the zoned areas”.
The screening includes preliminary checks for criminal records and citizenship prior to being issued an access card.
On 15 April 2015, minutes of a meeting at which M B Ischner and Mr H Strampe are present record that: “Mr Sihlangu informed all present that all staff, suppliers, clients, etc who are in possession of all permanent or semi-permanent access for the campus, will need to apply for an official security clearance…”
An email from Mr Chris Diedericks of Denel to Strampe on 21 October 2015 says: “As discussed at previous Tenants Meeting held, all tenants on campus will need to apply for official Security Clearances”.
Fireblade through Irons, responds two days later on 23 October 2015 acknowledging the contents of Diedericks’s email.
“As per our discussions this morning, kindly be advised that we acknowledge the new security criteria presented to you by Denel security. Please assure your colleagues at Denel that Fireblade will endeavour to comply (as it is always our policy to do so), but it is a process (internally noting) the exorbitant cost implications involved”.
A list of the access cardholders shows that Fireblade has 100 access holders who have not been vetted by either Armscor or SSA.
Although it acknowledges Denel’s obligation to operate in terms of the National Key Points Act, the billionaire’s operation says those obligations “have nothing to do with Fireblades application to the DHA”.
Bully Tactics and Lies
Fireblade sent Denel the letter of breach of contract on 10 February 2016 demanding that it furnish reasons for its objection to the application within seven days and threatened to take further action if Denel didn’t comply.
Denel responded on 15 February 2016 and the demand therefore fell away.
Despite this compliance however, Fireblade filed court papers on 22 February 2016.
In doing so, it violated the breach clause which required a “minimum notice period of 14 days before a party may proceed to enforce specific performance”.
In its attempt to address its violation of the breach clause, Fireblade said it had launched its application 17 days later on 29 February 2016, which is simply not true. When confronted with this lie and the difficulties that arise as a consequence of the application having been launched on 22 February 2016, Fireblade maintained “by time the application is heard, 14 days would have long since lapsed”.
Department of Home Affairs alone will make decision of Fireblade’s Application
The department of home affairs (DHA) alone will make the decision to grant Fireblade’s application. Denel’s requirements will be one of many factors the minister must consider in making the decision. Denel therefore questioned why Fireblade is not seeking relief from the DHA.
Fireblade said it had over the years since establishment communicated on several occasions with the department of home affairs (DHA) and by December 2015 it had “received a strong indication from the DHA that the application had been approved”. It would not provide details of what the “indications” were but is adamant that Denel’s objection was the impediment to its application without which it had lost R131 million in the last three years.