Gupta citizenship: MPs unhappy about sluggish start to inquiry

2018-05-30 17:05
Ajay and Atul Gupta. (File, Muntu Vilakazi, City Press)

Ajay and Atul Gupta. (File, Muntu Vilakazi, City Press)

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The Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs is unhappy with the slow progress it has made in getting key information, mostly from the Department of Home Affairs, relating to the Gupta family's early naturalisation.

Committee members met on Wednesday for an update from parliamentary legal services on the progress around setting up "Phase Two" of their probe into how Gupta family members received their citizenship.

However, the committee's request for foundational documents - to both the Department of Home Affairs and the North West education department, among others - seemed to have fallen on deaf ears, legal services told MPs.

READ: Citizens Gupta: Finally clarified. Sort of.

Legal services also needed the committee's approval to conduct interviews with support staff at the Department of Home Affairs.

"These are areas that are very critical for us. Much of the work that we are supposed to do, I really don't think you've done it," new committee chairperson Hlomani Chauke replied.

Chauke requested legal services to research the full history of the Gupta applications for citizenship, going as far back as the 1990s, if needs be.

"We may find that the current minister [Malusi Gigaba], only signed for one person. We can find that a former minister signed for 10 persons. We don't know," he continued.

"That's why we are asking the department for the last 10 years of all the names of [Guptas] who were naturalised."

'They are our department'

The North West education department was implicated in the matter because the Gupta family claimed its private donations to schools in the area were used as one of the justifications of their value as potential citizens.

Chauke again said embattled North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo or a provincial MEC may need to be called to account for how the schools were involved.

Economic Freedom Fighters MP Hlengiwe Mkhaliphi expressed her incredulity over the lack of progress in securing key documents.

"The North West is currently under administration," she said.

"[But] the department not responding; what is that? They are our department. They must [comply]."

Democratic Alliance MP Hanif Hoosen said there had been a noticeable delay in the process since the budget votes earlier this month.

He said it felt as if the department was "dragging its feet" in providing the necessary paperwork to Parliament.

Hoosen also reminded the committee that the instruction from Parliament in June last year, was not just to probe the naturalisation issue, but all aspects of "state capture" at home affairs.

The inquiry must, therefore, be broadened to include issues of how some employees at Gupta-owned companies received their permits, as well as the alleged involvement in the blocking of other companies' attempts to set up a private terminal at OR Tambo International Airport, he said.

Gigaba 'most important' witness

Chauke requested that legal services and Parliament's researchers spend the two-month long recess, beginning on June 15, to gather all the required documents.

They should also not be afraid to use Parliament's powers to get all the information needed over the next two months, as they needed to start calling witnesses thereafter.

"The most important in this is the minister," added African National Congress MP Maesela Kekana.

READ: Gigaba 'erroneously' said Atul Gupta is not a SA citizen - Home Affairs DG

"The department told us [about the citizenship], which means the minister must be the first person interrogated, to get clarity on what the reasons are.

"We also need to find out what the involvement was of [the] North West department and other ministries."

Chauke - serving in his position of permanent chairperson for the first time - wrapped by saying that they did not want to drag the story out any longer.

They want to get to the bottom of it as soon as possible.

The committee will return to work in mid-August after the recess and will then finalise a list of witnesses.

Read more on:    home affairs  |  malusi ­gigaba  |  gupta family

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