Some Guptas acquired SA citizenship in 2002
Some members of the Gupta family could have voted in South Africa’s six previous general and municipal elections, or even contested for public office if they wished to do so.
It has emerged that some among the family have enjoyed their citizenship status since 2002, when they were naturalised.
City Press has seen copies of identification numbers belonging to Atul Gupta and Chetali Gupta, which were recorded on an ANC Gauteng membership form dating back to 2008.
This indicated that, by then, they were already bona fide citizens of South Africa. The Guptas’ membership forms were for the ANC’s Ward 117 branch, which included their home in Saxonwold.
Naturalisation is one of the ways through which a foreigner can obtain South African citizenship.
In South Africa, a crucial feature of the country’s identification number – indicating which status the home affairs department has granted an applicant (a non-South African citizen with permanent residence status or a naturalised status) – is allocated in the 11th digit of the country’s 13-digit identity document. It is either a numerical 1 for a permanent resident status or a numerical 0 for the naturalised citizen status.
The home affairs department told City Press on Friday that for any person granted South African citizenship status by naturalisation, the 11th digit in the identification number will be changed to a 0.
This digit, which represents the citizenship status, means that the person is recognised as a South African citizen, irrespective of whether this was through birth, descent or naturalisation.
If it is the numerical number 1, the individual has been granted a non-South African citizenship with the right of permanent residence.
Home affairs department spokesperson David Hlabane said Atul received an identity document as a noncitizen in 1996. His identity number reflected a 1 for non-citizens, while Chetali was issued with the same document in 1997.
“[Atul] was then later issued with a South African citizen identity number reflecting 0 on December 2 2002 [and Chetali] on November 25 2002 [indicating full citizenship rights],” he said.
Hlabane added that both were naturalised after they had spent five years holding permanent residence permits and identity numbers, which were issued in 1997 for Chetali and a year earlier for Atul.
Home affairs director-general Mkuseli Apleni said it was important to note that the controversial 2015 decision by former home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba – now the finance minister – to naturalise some members of the Gupta family only involved “the Ajay Gupta family”, including his wife and children.
His brothers Atul and Rajesh Gupta, as well as members of the broader Gupta family, were not involved in that process, Apleni said.
Immigration lawyer Gary Eisenberg said permanent residence status incorporated all socioeconomic rights, including the right to work, to sojourn anywhere in South Africa on an indefinite basis, to conduct any business or enterprise, and to enter and exit South Africa at will.
He said other pathways to citizenship could be by birth, which includes the late registration of a foreign birth, or even by way of resumption for former citizens who might have lost citizenship.
He said people granted citizenship by naturalisation or birth possessed political rights – including the rights to vote and become an MP – and all socioeconomic rights.