‘Did SA do everything required or is it another Gupta agreement?’: Reactions to UAE president landing in Bhisho

The Eastern Cape government says the necessary and correct procedures to facilitate UAE President Sheik Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s visit to the province were followed.

A cargo plane offloads cars belonging to UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al Nahyan at Bhisho Airport in the Eastern Cape.
Image: Supplied

The president’s visit to South Africa raised questions as to why he and his entourage landed at Bhisho Airport and what procedures were followed.

The Daily Dispatch reported that 60 people arrived at the airport on three flights on Sunday and Monday after obtaining special permission from home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi to use it as a port of entry at Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane’s request.

On Wednesday, three passenger flights arrived during the day, as well as a phalanx of large turbine helicopters and a large transport aircraft that unloaded vehicles.

“The UAE president is undertaking a private visit and is expected to explore the beauty of the Eastern Cape,” the provincial government said in a statement.

“All processes, including making sure that as they enter the airport the necessary searches are conducted by officials, state institutions and departments have been followed,” spokesperson Khuselwa Rantjie told Newzroom Afrika.

She could not go into detail about what the requirements are for those wanting to make such a landing.

“I am aware there is a process that must be followed and must get the approval of the minister of home affairs for such to happen,” said Rantjie.

Aviation sources told the Sunday Times the logistical arrangements for the landing were extraordinary and included an airport revamp and contracting specialised air traffic staff to man the tower at the airport.

The South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) confirmed it had inspected the airport to ensure compliance.

“The Bhisho Airport management upgraded the airport infrastructure,” said spokesperson Sisa Majola. “The SACAA conducted oversight inspections to ensure those upgrades were adequate and in line with regulation requirements and standards.”

On social media, many expressed mixed reactions to the visit.