MPs want Gupta brothers to answer at citizenship inquiry

2018-08-15 17:35
Ajay and Atul Gupta. (Muntu Vilakazi, Gallo Images, City Press, file)

Ajay and Atul Gupta. (Muntu Vilakazi, Gallo Images, City Press, file)

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It may be a long shot, but MPs on the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs want to invite the infamous Gupta brothers to appear before it when they begin interviewing witnesses on the family's naturalisation as citizens.

The committee met on Wednesday to resume discussions on the matter, having received a parliamentary legal services report late on Tuesday.

The report highlighted the key events that led to the Gupta brothers - and their respective families - receiving their citizenship under controversial circumstances over the last 15 years.

Also recommended was a proposed list of witnesses to be called to help fill the gaps, which included former ministers Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi and Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula

READ MORE: Gigaba, former ministers could be called for Gupta citizenship inquiry

On Wednesday, DA MP Haniff Hoosen said the committee should also consider calling the three brothers before the committee and should not take for granted that they would simply skip it.

"Whether it's possible or not, I think we should add the names of the applicants: the Guptas. Whether they are here or not is another issue, but we must add them," Hoosen said.

"They are the ones who have a lot to answer for."

The committee and chairperson Hlomani Chauke seemed open to the idea.

The Gupta brothers are currently abroad. They are also wanted in relation to a Hawks investigation into the Estina Diary project in the Free State.

Reports this week said the Hawks were also working on an extradition with the United Arab Emirates - where the brothers currently reside - raising the slim chances that they could finally appear before the various investigations into state capture.

The Guptas declined to appear in person last year before the Portfolio Committee on Public Enterprises' inquiry into Eskom, opting to be represented by lawyers.

Names to be called for the citizenship inquiry thus far include:

- current minister Malusi Gigaba;
- Prince Buthelezi and Mapisa-Nqakula;
- former Oakbay CEO Nazeem Howa;
- former Sahara Computers CEO Ashu Chawla;
- and former SA High Commission appointee in India Gideon Christians, among others.

Other names suggested on Wednesday include CEOs that were involved in donations to schools on behalf of the Gupta family, and directors general who served during the stints of Buthelezi and Mapisa-Nqakula.

Around 80 Guptas in South Africa

Chauke wanted to err on the side of caution when finalising the report and the final list of names to be called.

The committee will also ask the department for information on every citizen in the country with the surname Gupta. There are around 80 identified currently, most of which are not related to the infamous family.

He also said the committee should get preliminary information regarding the tenures of former ministers Buthelezi and Masipa-Nqakula before calling them.

"If the process was above board, then their names can fall," he said.

They will also ask legal services to further provide exact details relating to the subpoena/invitation process.

Going forward, they will submit questions to Gigaba to get as much information as possible ahead of calling witnesses.

They should focus on the reasons why Ajay Gupta's family members, who were initially rejected for citizenship in 2013, were granted special condonation by the minister in 2015.

As for former ministers, the committee would first call employees and directors general who served at the time. If more information was required from the respective ministers, then they would take it further.

"Anyone who appears here are (sic) going to appear under oath," Chauke added.

The committee plans to start calling witnesses from September 11 to 14, once it has received all the information it can from the department and Gigaba.

Read more on:    parliament  |  gupta

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