'Sick' Gigaba bunks question session in Parliament amid Gupta citizenship controversy

Empty Cabinet seats in the National Assembly. (Paul Herman, News24)
Empty Cabinet seats in the National Assembly. (Paul Herman, News24)

Cape Town - Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba sparked the ire of opposition MPs after he was missing in action during a scheduled question session to ministers in Parliament on Wednesday.

The session was being held in the midst of a controversy surrounding the naturalisation of the Gupta family. 

Gigaba said, at a briefing on Tuesday, that both Atul and Ajay Gupta were not South African citizens. Copies of Atul's ID revealed in the #GuptaLeaks prove that he is in fact a citizen, while the Electoral Commission of South Africa confirmed earlier that he is a registered voter. 

READ: Ajay, Atul Gupta not South African citizens – Gigaba

Before the second question was asked in the House on Wednesday, Democratic Alliance chief whip John Steenhuisen rose on a point of order, and asked Speaker Baleka Mbete: "Where is Minister Gigaba?"

"We know he is in terrible difficulty at the moment," Steenhuisen continued.

"I'd like us to please ask, tell us where is he hiding?"

Some of their questions could not be answered by Gigaba's deputy Fatima Chohan, he said.

Inkatha Freedom Party chief whip Narend Singh said they had been informed at the chief whips forum that all peace and security ministers would be in the House on Wednesday.

Mbete initially said she had not received a letter requesting that Gigaba be absent, as is protocol.

She said she shared the "concern over absent ministers".

But 15 minutes into an argument over Gigaba's absence, that saw both EFF MPs Mbuyiseni Ndlozi and Floyd Shivambu kicked out, Mbete said she had just received a letter.

"He is not feeling well," she explained.

Groans and laughs emerged from the opposition benches. Steenhuisen asked if the letter had been quickly written up, because Gigaba "was in a right mess".

"I have no power over the veracity of the letter," Mbete answered.

Opposition parties demanded that questions not be answered by Gigaba's deputy in the ministry.

EFF MP Veronica Mente requested that they postpone all questions until missing ministers appeared, including International Relations Minister Lindiwe Sisulu.

The request was rejected, but Mbete agreed to hold the questions over for the next session.

The question session continued on Wednesday.

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