Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba delivered the B udget to Parliament on Wednesday. He is trying to spearhead a more stable economic landscape, says the writer. Picture: EPA
JOHANNESBURG - Newly appointed Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba’s absence during Parliament’s oral question session with MP's ignited commotion in the house as members slammed his non-appearance.

The Home Affairs Minister's absence from the National Assembly to answer questions on the citizenship status of the controversial Gupta family on Wednesday drew the ire of opposition parties who accused him of being a "pathological liar".

Speaker Baleka Mbete read out a letter from Gigaba's office saying he had to "rush to the doctor" and could therefore not attend the question-and-answer session for ministers who are part of the peace and security cluster.

On Tuesday Gigaba denied that Ajay and Atul Gupta, two of three Indian-born brothers alleged to have made billions of rand off state contracts secured as a result of being close friends and benefactors of former president Jacob Zuma and his family, were granted South African citizenship.

On Wednesday, the Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) on Wednesday confirmed that Atul Gupta was registered to vote in the country - meaning he had a South African ID number and was indeed a citizen.

As soon as opposition MPs realised Gigaba was not in the chamber during question time they started shouting "Where’s the liar?"

Gigaba has been under pressure lately as the home affairs portfolio committee questioned him on Tuesday on the naturalisation of the controversial Gupta family‚ while the committee probing the alleged capture of Eskom also wants him to appear before it.

DA MP Haniff Hoosen had wanted Gigaba to explain to Parliament how many foreigners had been granted South African citizenship since April 2017, but the Q&A session with ministers in Cabinet’s peace and security cluster degenerated owing to Gigaba’s non-appearance.

"We respectfully would like to check with you if Minister Malusi Gigaba has actually given reasons for his absence today‚ because he goes around lying to SA‚ now he’s avoiding Parliament. That’s the motivation of the question — has he possibly lied to you about his absence?" said EFF MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi.

Speaker Baleka Mbete told MPs earlier that she was not aware of Gigaba’s whereabouts saying, "I share the concern‚ but I can’t actually produce the minister right now."

Mbete then read a letter from Gigaba’s office‚ which explained that the Minster had been booked off due to ill-health. "It’s signed by the chief of staff of the Ministry of Home Affairs. It goes ‘I hereby tender an apology on behalf of Minister Gigaba … who will be unable to attend plenary today, March 7 2018. He is not feeling well; the minister could not sign the letter because he had to rush to the doctor’‚" Mbata read, amid jeers from opposition parties.

The Speaker then ruled that questions initially directed at Gigaba would be held over until the next Q&A date‚ when the Minister is set to be present.