Gigaba’s ‘untruths’ in alleged Gupta case

2017-10-29 05:49

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Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba’s explanation of his abrupt U-turn in a multimillion-rand dispute was “nonsensical and palpably untrue”, the High Court in Pretoria has ruled. The Gupta family has cast a long shadow over the case.

The case relates to a decision by Gigaba – taken when he was still minister of home affairs – to withdraw his approval for the Oppenheimers’ company, Fireblade Aviation, to have customs and immigration services at its VVIP facility for private jets at OR Tambo International Airport.

On Friday, Judge Sulet Potterill ruled that Gigaba had, in fact, granted approval for customs and immigration services to be provided at the Fireblade facility.

Gigaba had initially granted his approval for the Fireblade Aviation operation to go ahead at a meeting on January 28 2016. All other state entities had been consulted and approved the project. The minutes taken by Fireblade at the meeting reflect that “MG [Malusi Gigaba] has signed this approval”. According to the minutes, Gigaba then also requested that President Jacob Zuma be invited to the official opening.

But just over a week later, Gigaba penned an internal memo in which he stated that “[Fireblade] must be made aware forthwith that the approval we granted them is also suspended until further notice, pending Denel’s investigations and their conclusions”.

This was ostensibly done because Denel, which was leasing the property to Fireblade, and had also initially expressed its support for the project in writing, had raised an objection about security clearances.

Fireblade then approached the high court.

During the course of this litigation, allegations were made by Fireblade that the Gupta family had attempted to pressurise the company into taking an empowerment partner. According to media reports, it was alleged that the Gupta family then used their influence in Denel to pressurise Gigaba into withdrawing his approval.

But the court did not make any findings on these allegations, ruling instead that Gigaba’s own explanations of changing his mind did not hold up.

The court rejected Gigaba’s explanation of the comment, made by him in his internal memo, in which he stated that the “approval we granted them [Fireblade] is also suspended”. Gigaba explained that he made this comment on the basis that he expected home affairs officials to advise him that the project should proceed. But the court ruled that “this explanation is nonsensical and palpably untrue”.

The court did not make any ruling in respect of an application brought for a striking out of some allegations from the papers. “All the parties had the opportunity, and in fact did categorically deny any involvement with a certain family.”

Gigaba said he felt that the judge got it “very wrong. My preliminary response is that I will appeal.”

Read more on:    malusi gigaba  |  guptas

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