Controversy clouds UAE president’s visit to the Eastern Cape

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The Eastern Cape government maintains that it followed all the necessary and correct procedures to facilitate the visit of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) President, Sheik Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, to the province.

Two of his aircraft landed at the Bhisho Airport near Qonce on Sunday and Wednesday, with an entourage of at least 500 people. Questions are being asked as to why they landed at the airport, which is a military base.

The high-profile visit comes shortly after Eastern Cape Premier, Oscar Mabuyane, led a delegation to the Arab nation.

The province says the presidential visit has the potential to strengthen relations with the UAE as spokesperson, Khuselwa Rantjie explains. “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 to the UAE market.”

No breaches

The South African Civil Aviation Authority says the Bhisho Airport was never decommissioned and is a licensed aerodrome.

The authority adds that there were no breaches brought to its attention. The Eastern Cape government also says the airport has, in line with South Africa’s protocols, been in the interim designated as a port of entry to enable the passage of the UAE leader.

It’s not known how long the UAE delegation will stay.

Meanwhile, Congress of The People (COPE) has called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to explain why the UAE President’s jet was allowed to land at the Bulembu Airport.

COPE says this smacks of the Gupta family landing at the Waterkloof Military base 10 years ago. COPE spokesperson Dennis Bloem explains: “This is the same country that showed South Africa the middle finger by refusing to extradite the Gupta Brothers and yet they are allowed to enter our country through the backdoor.”

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