ATM decries landing of private airplane by UAE leader in Bisho

The UAE’s president and ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and his family. Picture: Instagram

The UAE’s president and ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and his family. Picture: Instagram

Published Apr 24, 2023


Johannesburg - South Africa has become a banana republic, says African Transformation Movement (ATM) leader Vuyo Zungula, following the controversial recent landing of the president of the UAE and family on a strip in Bisho, Eastern Cape.

Zungula said his party condemned the landing of a plane by the president of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, on a South African runway.

The ruler and his family landed in the Eastern Cape on Wednesday on a R20 million runway he reportedly built with his money, without any security clearance.

It is reported the wealthy landed quietly in the Eastern Cape, along with an entourage of 500, including other members of the UAE royal family, staff, and top artists who were expected to perform for the family to mark the end of Ramadaan.

Following widespread condemnation of the incident, Zungula said his party had written a letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa and the affected ministers to provide explanations for the landing.

“The ATM was taken aback when media reports exposed that the president of the UAE not only landed at Bulembu Airport in Bisho but that he also upgraded the airport to the tune of R20 million,” Zungula said.

He said the landing has exposed the country to a negative media spotlight as it came 10 years after the infamous landing of the Gupta plane at Waterkloof in 2013.

“However, this time around, the magnitude of the saga seems to be 10 times larger. Has South Africa become a banana republic where people just develop their own landing strips and land their planes?”

In what looks like a repeat of the Gupta Waterkloof landing in 2013, the royal family and their guests are said to have brought their own furniture, cars and gym equipment for their two-week stay in the Eastern Cape.

On Friday, the EFF in the Eastern Cape said it was concerned about Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane’s handling of the incident.

“The concern for us is how this visit was organised and executed by the Provincial Government of the EC led by Premier Oscar Mabuyane. This visit was first instigated by the UEA Ambassador to South Africa (SA), Mahash Saeed Alhameli, during a meeting with the province in March 2023.

“According to reports, the ambassador expressed that the UAE has a keen investment interest in the province. This was followed by a visit to the UAE by a delegation led by Mabuyane, where various unknown and undisclosed agreements were entered into on behalf of the people of EC,” the EFF said.

According to the SABC, the Eastern Cape government maintained it followed all the necessary and correct procedures to facilitate the UAE president’s visit to the province.

Provincial spokesperson Khuselwa Rantjie told the public broadcaster the visit had the potential to strengthen relations with the UAE.

“The UAE president is undertaking a private visit to the Eastern Cape. Our view is that this is a strategic opportunity offering a springboard on which we can strengthen the province’s image as a tourism and investment destination, especially in the UAE market,” Rantjie said.

The Star