Air BP exits South Africa
Air BP exits South Africa. Photo: / Air bp

With Air BP announcing its exit from South African airports, the DA warns this could be the beginning of a wider disinvestment from SA, and blames the ANC government’s “fatal support for Russia” for triggering detrimental economic consequences for the country.

The DA cites the ANC’s support of “continued aggression in Ukraine and refusal to condemn the flagrant abuse of human rights by the invading Russian army” as the reason for Air BP’s exit. However Air BP has not confirmed this theory.

In a statement on Thursday, Kevin Mileham – DA Shadow Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy – says this could be start of disinvestment by businesses from Europe, which is one of SA’s largest trading partners. Mileham explained:

“In 2022, two Russian planes could not get fuel from large international fuel suppliers at the OR Tambo International Airport (ORTIA) and Cape Town International Airport (CTIA). The fuel suppliers had to adhere to the sanctions imposed on Russia by their countries of origin. To avoid facing this dilemma in future, some suppliers such as Air BP have chosen to vote with their feet and exit South African airports completely. If the ANC government continues with its pro-Russia stance, more suppliers will follow in the steps of Air BP.”

Statement on Air BP’s exit from South Africa

In response to a request from Air Insight Group, bp Southern Africa’s Head of Communications, Hamlet Morule, said:

“As part of good business practice, Air bp reviews its portfolio on a continuous basis. In light of its latest review, a decision was taken to exit all of bp’s aviation activities, as operator at the airports, and direct supplier to airlines, in South Africa. The decision was made as a result of Air bp’s current global business strategy.

“bp can confirm that it has sent out communication advising its customers of its decision to cease aviation fuel activities at East London and George Airports on 31 March 2023, and has withdrawn from Cape Town International Airport effective 31 January 2023.

“Furthermore, bp Southern Africa has taken a decision to exit operations at OR Tambo International Airport and is currently serving notice to cease being managing participant, effective 1 May 2023. We have sent out communications advising our customers of our decision to cease aviation activities at OR Tambo and King Shaka International Airports on 30 April 2023.

“In this time of transition, bp remains committed to working with all stakeholders to ensure customers and the country are not adversely impacted as a direct result of bp’s exit from South Africa’s aviation market.”

The ANC is protecting one man – Vladimir Putin

Meanwhile the DA’s Mileham says the ANC is protecting one man, Vladimir Putin, at a heavy cost to SA.

“Faced with the choice of protecting the South African economy or acquiescing to its comrades in the Kremlin, the ANC government has shown a willingness to impose a heavy economic price on South Africans to protect one man – Vladimir Putin. The ANC government has not only refused to review its stance on Russia, it has doubled down and assured its Russian friends, through the Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA), that it would adopt a new refueling plan to deal with a scenario “where a sanctioned friend of the South African government needs servicing and refueling”.

“ACSA’s ill-advised decision to bypass Western Sanctions on Russia by taking over the refueling of planes and contracting some of that responsibility to PetroSA could have wider ramifications for our aviation industry because neither has the expertise to run such operations at scale. After 4 of the 5 jet fuel refineries were shut down in the country, South Africa has become reliant on imported jet fuel.”

The urgent question, he says, is whether ACSA and PetroSA will be able to manage the complex international jet fuel supply chains in order to ensure a steady supply of jet fuel to South African airports.

“With the fuel supply challenges that have recently been reported at ORTIA and CTIA, a crisis of confidence could soon emerge across our airport network with dire consequences for the economy.

“The ANC government, ACSA and PetroSA should not seek to disrupt South Africa’s aviation sector to appease a Kremlin war monger at the expense of our economy. Putin is now a wanted war criminal and South Africa should not foot the bill for his reckless behavior.”

In an EFF presser today, commander-in-chief Julius Malema came out strongly in support of Putin, saying: “CC Can Go to Hell! President Vladimir Putin is welcomed in South Africa. No one is going to arrest Puting here. If needs be, we will go fetch him at the airport, go with him to his meetings and escort him back to the Airport.”