Gigaba downplays role in Guptas' naturalisation

Cape Town  - Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba told the Eskom Inquiry on Tuesday that he was not at the centre of the naturalisation of the Gupta family, and had never discussed anything "of significance" with them. 

Gigaba was testifying before the committee on public enterprises, which has for months been investigating allegations of maladministration at state power utility Eskom. 

During questioning by committee members, he was asked about his role in the contentious issue of when and how members of the Gupta family were granted citizenship.

“Having raised the issue of the Gupta citizenship – I will deal with it in comprehensive detail because the honorable member believes an incorrect assertion that I am at the centre of the naturalisation of the Gupta family members,” said Gigaba.

He gave a rundown of the 62 people in the Gupta family living in South Africa, and explained that most were naturalised between 2002 and 2006, when he was not yet minister of home affairs.

Gigaba was minister of home affairs between May 2014 and March 2017. He was then moved to the finance portfolio. 

In late February, in President Cyril Ramaposa's first Cabinet reshuffle, he was moved back to the home affairs portfolio. 

He said that other members of the Gupta family were granted permanent residence permits before his first  tenure at home affairs. “That does not place me at the centre of the naturalisation of the Gupta family members,” he said. 

Gigaba said the letter of law was followed "to its full extent" in granting citizenship to the Guptas. He said they were even asked to renounce their Indian citizenship.

“If there was a malicious attempt to grant them South African citizenship regardless of what SA law stated, they would not have been asked at the end of the process to state or renounce their Indian citizenship,” he said.

The Gupta brothers 

In 2015, when Gigaba was minister of home affairs, four Gupta family members were granted citizenship. 

Ajay Gupta was not granted citizenship because he did not renounce his Indian citizenship, said Gigaba. He is, however, a permanent resident of South Africa.

“This means we followed the letter of the law to its full extent and did nothing outside of it,” Gigaba said.

Gigaba told the committee he erroneously announced Ajay Gupta was, in fact, a South African citizen at a press briefing last week. Gigaba told the committee he attempted to correct the misinformation the very same afternoon, and sent out a statement the following day.

His conflicting statements caused widespread confusion about the exact status of the Gupta brothers. 

Speaking of his interactions with the Gupta family, Gigaba said he had met members of the family at the Diwali celebrations and a wedding he attended. Gigaba said a number of ministers and political figures were invited and attended the functions.  

When asked by DA MP Natasha Mazzone why he was invited to events which seemed rather personal, Gigaba said that he did not know why he was invited.

He said he receives invitations all the time from people he does not know. “People have different reasons why they do these things,” he said.

At times businesses would invite celebrities, or even pay them to attend events, Gigaba said as way of explanation.

He said nothing of significance was discussed at these events, except for the exchange of pleasantries

He has since decided not to accept invitations for functions at people’s homes because of the public concern it raises. 

The Gupta brothers and their associates had been invited by the portfolio committee to also present evidence at the inquiry on Tuesday.

Instead the committee received a legal letter from their lawyers to say they were not in the country and viewed the inquiry as an exercise in “political showboating” with unfair questioning of witnesses.

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