‘I never assisted the Gupta family‚’ Gigaba tells parliament
Home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba is adamant: he never did any favours for the Guptas.
In a late-night address to parliament’s home affairs portfolio committee‚ Gigaba several times denied having a personal relationship with the family‚ which stands accused of being at the heart of state capture.
The committee has been conducting an inquiry into the naturalisation of the Guptas. In a prepared submission which he read over from about 10.30pm‚ the home affairs minister said:
“I‚ at no stage during my tenure‚ assisted the Gupta family‚ or any other private interest group‚ to capture the state.”
Later‚ while responding to specific allegations made against him during testimony made by the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa)‚ Gigaba was equally adamant that he had done nothing wrong.
“I have done no favours for the Guptas‚ neither have I received any gratification from them‚” he said.
Gigaba admitted that he “dealt with” five people with the surname Gupta: Ajay Gupta‚ his mother‚ Angoori Gupta‚ his wife‚ Shivani Gupta‚ and their two sons‚ Surya Kant Singhala and Kamal Kant Singhala.
“Mr Atul Gupta and his family were not processed during my tenure. Mr Atul Gupta is recorded as having entered the country on 11 January 1994 and was naturalised in 2002. Mr Rajesh Kumar Gupta and his family were also not processed during my tenure. Mr Rajesh Gupta is recorded as having entered the country on 22 April 1998 and was naturalised in 2006.
“What is noteworthy is that even Mr Ajay Kumar Gupta‚ the only Gupta brother whose naturalisation application was processed during my tenure‚ is recorded as having entered the country on 8 May 1999 and was granted permanent residence in 2008.
“Honourable members‚ I was not the Executive Authority of the Department during the various relevant periods.
“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 unjustifiably labelling me as one of the key ‘state capture’ enablers‚” he said.
Gigaba confirmed that he did‚ ultimately‚ after an extensive process‚ sign a letter allowing Ajay Gupta to be naturalised – but that this was only done after he “received a submission from the department‚ duly signed by all the relevant line function managers‚ recommending that I approve the request by Mr Ajay Gupta and family for early naturalisation”.
“In exercising my discretion‚ I duly applied my mind to the submission presented to me by the department and approved their recommendation‚ as is the norm in similar applications. Accordingly‚ I signed the department’s draft letter to Mr Ajay Gupta and his family informing them of my decision to approve their request for early Naturalization based on the information before me.
“It is important that I highlight here that the letters sent to all applicants for early naturalisation are in a standard form and the approval of early naturalisation is subject to‚ amongst others‚ section 5(1)(h) of the Citizenship Act‚ which states that citizens of countries that do not permit dual citizenship must first renounce the citizenship of their country of origin before they are naturalised as a South African citizen.
“In respect of Mr Ajay Gupta‚ I’m advised that he did not renounce his Indian citizenship and was‚ therefore‚ not naturalised. Accordingly‚ as matters stand‚ Mr Ajay Gupta is not a South African citizen‚” said Gigaba.
He said that‚ given this‚ only Ajay Gupta’s wife‚ mother and two sons were granted early naturalisation.
“All processes were followed. Not a single step was overlooked‚” Gigaba said‚ responding to a question asked after he had completed his prepared submission.
However‚ Gigaba admitted that he had visited the Guptas at their home – but only because he was doing his job.
“As a public representative and a politician‚ it is inherent in my role to interact with as many stakeholders as possible‚ to be accessible to them and to hear their perspectives. It does not follow that I am beholden to someone because I have interacted with them in a space where there are many other people. I have been to their home when invited to functions there in the presence of other public representatives and many other people including at their home. This is not evidence of some corrupt relationship‚ which I in any event deny‚” he said.
Pressed on the nature of his relationship with the Gupta family‚ Gigaba said: “It was a professional relationship‚ not a personal [relationship].”