Opposition parties have slammed the absence of ministers Hlengiwe Mkhize and Malusi Gigaba from a meeting to discuss the naturalisation of the Gupta family. Picture: Bongani Shilubane

Parliament - The absence of Home Affairs Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize and her predecessor Malusi Gigaba from a parliamentary meeting to discuss the granting of early citizenship to several members of the Gupta family drew the ire of opposition parties on Tuesday.

It emerged during a meeting of the home affairs portfolio committee that the ministers were abroad. A full delegation of home affairs officials, including director general Mkuseli Apleni, were sent to brief MPs.

Democratic Alliance chief whip, John Steenhuisen, said while the presence of a full delegation from the department was appreciated, they were not responsible for taking a decision to grant Ajay Gupta, his wife, Shivani, his mother, Angoori, and his sons, Kamal Kant Singhala and Surya Kant Singhala, early naturalisation.

“The people before us are neither responsible or accountable for the decision that has been taken,” said Steenhuisen. “The process has gone wrong on the exercise of the ministerial discretion.”

Steenhuisen went on to accuse Gigaba and Mkhize of a “coordinated attempt to duck out of accounting”.

He urged the committee to issue the two ministers with summons to appear before the committee, a proposal ruling African National Congress (ANC) MPs scoffed at.

ANC MP Donald Gumede urged opposition parties to respect the executive and said the ministers were invited, and not summoned to appear before the committee.

“It was an invitation to people that are busy. It is important for the three arms of government to respect each other. We have to respect the cabinet,” said Gumede.

Freedom Front Plus MP, Corne Mulder, said the ANC was singing a different tune, referring to the word “summon” and not “invite” being used during a meeting of the committee last week.

“I really feel sorry for my colleagues from the ruling party. They are in a difficult position, they have to try and save face in sense…,” said Mulder.

He said if the ministers indeed were “invited”, they had not honoured the invitation and should now be “summoned” to explain the early citizenship of the Gupta family members.

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) MP, Hlengiwe Hlope, agreed: “Shame on the ANC, they are now changing their language.”

In the end, Apleni and his team were allowed to present the department’s position to MPs. Committee chairperson, Lemias Mashile, said nothing prevented the ministers from being invited to brief them at a later stage.

The Economic Freedom Fighters had earlier this month released two documents, one in which an official denied the Guptas citizenship and another showing Gigaba had used his ministerial discretion to waive certain provisions of the Citizenship Act. Gigaba conceded the documents were authentic, adding his actions were legal and above board.