What Gigaba will tell Gupta probe

2018-09-16 06:00
Malusi Gigaba (Themba Hadebe, AP, file)

Malusi Gigaba (Themba Hadebe, AP, file)

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Home Affairs minister Malusi Gigaba wants to tell Parliament that an investigation into his involvement in the Guptas’ plan to capture the state is baseless.

Gigaba’s testimony before the portfolio committee on home affairs, which had this week set aside three days to grill those implicated in granting naturalisation to the Gupta brothers, was deferred indefinitely.

On Thursday evening, Gigaba said he was “disappointed” about not having his say before the committee as he had looked forward to bringing clarity regarding the allegations made against him.

In Gigaba’s planned response to the portfolio committee, which City Press has seen, the minister says that he is confident that the inquiry will prove, “beyond any shadow of doubt, that the various allegations underpinning the request for the committee to investigate my involvement in state capture through the granting of citizenship to the Guptas are without basis whatsoever”.

“During my tenure, I, at no stage, assisted the Gupta family, or any other private interest group, to capture the state.

“The objective reality is that, out of 62 persons with the surname Gupta who are recorded on the department’s systems, only five were processed during my tenure – that is Mr Ajay Kumar Gupta; his mother, Mrs Angoori Gupta; his wife, Mrs Shivani Gupta; and their two sons, Masters Sutya Kant Singhala and Kamal Kant Singhala.”

Gigaba then goes on to point out that the two Gupta brothers who have been naturalised went through the process long before his tenure at home affairs.

“Yet, in spite of all of this, a narrative has arisen among certain sections of the media and the opposition that I am responsible for naturalising the Gupta family through irregular means, thus making me one of the key ‘state capture’ enablers.”

The committee opted to defer Gigaba’s testimony after it failed to complete its engagement with former home affairs director-general Mkuseli Apleni.

The chairperson of the committee said: “Firstly, the committee considers it a prerequisite that it must interrogate the administrative part of the process before it can look at the political decisions made by the executive authority. This is based on a simple fact that, before a political decision is made, an extensive administrative process would have been undertaken which guides the political decision.

“The committee has not been able to complete interrogating this initial phase, hence the need to defer the next stage of the process.”

The committee has also resolved to summons key Gupta man and apparent fixer Ashu Chawla. The man who features prominently in the leaked Gupta emails is currently in India, despite being granted bail with the proviso that his passport be withheld. He was allegedly part of the Estina dairy farm saga, which also involved the Guptas.

What MPs are most eager to learn from Gigaba, however, is what he deemed to be the “exceptional circumstances” that he considered when he agreed to waive the fact that Ajay Gupta’s wife and mother did not qualify for naturalisation, paving the way for the family of five to be naturalised.

“The law effectively leaves the interpretation of ‘exceptional circumstances’ to the minister. I have interpreted this to mean ‘in the national interest’ or ‘on humanitarian grounds’. My interpretation of the national interest basis includes when an applicant makes an extraordinary contribution to society. Very often, this contribution is as an investor or business owner who contributes significantly to economic activity or employment in the country. In other cases, it has
been for academics or sportspersons,” is how Gigaba plans to respond.

“In the case of Mr Ajay Gupta, his motivation referred to companies with revenue or investments totalling up to R25bn per annum, and thousands of employees. I concluded that economic activity of this scale was significant and beneficial to South Africa. I concluded that it outweighs the extent to which two of his five family members did not fulfil the requirements.”

The issue of the R25bn figure, used by Chawla in motivating for the Gupta brother and his family to be naturalised, became a sticking point on day two of the inquiry. Home affairs official Richard Sikakane – who appeared alongside another official, Norman Ramashia – shocked MPs when he admitted that there was no verification of whether or not the Guptas’ investments in the country amounted to R25bn.

“I must indicate that the issue of verifying the amount of R25bn and the 7 000 employees was not something that we did,” Sikakane said.

Chawla had also motivated that Gupta had invested large amounts in social responsibility programmes, specifically in schools in North West, but the head of North West’s department of education and sports development, Stephinah Semaswe, told MPs on Wednesday that this was not the case.

Visibly irritated by Sikakane’s testimony, committee chairperson Hlomane Chauke lashed out and said: “How cheap is South African citizenship? Easy, easy, easy.

“When I remember how people fought and died for this country … Home affairs just opens up the borders and sells [citizenship] for free, for a plate of curry or a ticket to Sun City,” Chauke lamented.

Read more on:    malusi gigaba  |  guptas

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