Gigaba slammed for missing meeting
FINANCE Minister Gigaba,
pictured, is far from being let off the hook regarding the explanation required on the naturalisation of the Guptas.
This is despite the Home Affairs Department director-general Mkuseli Apleni explaining to the portfolio committee yesterday the law and processes followed when his former boss used his discretion to grant the naturalisation certificate to the family.
Gigaba and current Home Affairs Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize tendered their apologies for failing to attend the meeting.
Even acting Home Affairs Minister Faith Muthambi failed to arrive in place of Mkhize.
Their failure to attend the meeting sparked angry responses, especially from parliamentarians from the opposition, who felt they could not hold the officials accountable, while those from the ruling party downplayed their absence.
The EFF’s Hlengiwe Hlophe said it seemed that the committee was not respected.
“We want Hlengiwe Mkhize and the former (minister Gigaba), who took this decision of the early naturalisation,” Hlophe said.
ANC MP Deborah Raphuti said they did not dispute that the ministers should have been at the meeting.
“Can we take a deep breath and… take the briefing from the director-general (Apleni),” Raphuti said.
“We must engage with documents before us and if there are any issues we can take forward. No one is running away from this issue,” she added.
The DA’s John Steenhuisen insisted that the problem was not with the department but lay with the exercise of ministerial discretion by Gigaba.
Steenhuisen decried the stifling of the Gupta probe and state capture by individual committees.
“We argued for a single ad hoc committee. The committee type of probe won’t be successful,” he said.
Pieter Mulder of the Freedom Front Plus said it was not for officials to do the bidding of ministers.
“Those ministers should come and account,” he added.
The IFP’s Sibongile Nkomo echoed these sentiments, saying the “main” people to account were the ministers.
“We need those ministers. They need to be summoned,” Nkomo said.
She called on committee chairperson Lemias Mashile to play his part in ensuring that the ministers were summoned.
Mashile said yesterday’s meeting was not the first and the last. “We should not take the posture as if today is do or die,” he said.
Briefing the committee, Apleni said the Guptas had applied for naturalisation as a family of five – Ajay Gupta, his wife, Shivani, his mother, Angoori, and his sons, Kamal Kant Singhala and Surya Kant Singhala.
“It’s a choice to decide to apply for naturalisation as a family or as an individual,” he said.
Apleni also said two of the family members, Shivani and Angoori, did not meet the requirements.
He explained that if one family member did not meet the requirements, the entire application was unsuccessful
Although the family was notified that it could reapply in December 2017, the family had made an appeal to the then minister, Gigaba, to waive the requirements on their exceptional circumstance.
In their appeal for waiver, they cited the fact that they employed 7 000 people and their investment of R25 million in the country’s economy, among others.
“The minister with powers vested in him decided to waive,” Apleni said.
He added that Gigaba had applied his mind based on the recommendation of officials, including himself.
Apleni explained that the members of the family were supposed to have renounced their Indian citizenship.
“All the family members except Ajay did renounce the citizenship. It means that Mr Gupta never renounced his naturalisation.
“Mr Gupta has not been naturalised,” Apleni stressed. “He is still a permanent resident holder.
“The people that naturalised are these four (Shivani, Angoori, Kamal Kant Singhala and Surya Kant Singhala),” he said.
Apleni also said the department was required to have tabled the names of people granted citizenship by naturalisation to Parliament, but that hadn’t happened.
“The last report was submitted in 2012. Since 2013, it was an omission,” he said.
Apleni was adamant that the tabling of the names of naturalised persons was not a condition for granting the citizenship.
“By not tabling, it should not be equal to null and void.”