Immigration experts have slammed Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba’s decision to grant citizenship to the Gupta family while he was Home Affairs minister.
This comes after the EFF released what it believed was proof that Gigaba had flouted the country's immigration laws to accommodate the family.
Yesterday Gigaba’s spokesperson, Mayihlome Tshwete, said the minister had acted in the same manner in the issuing of certificates of naturalisation to sport personalities and other foreign investors, having suggested the same be applied for Brics investor partners.
Tshwete confirmed the legitimacy of the documents in possession of the EFF and said granting of naturalisation certificates of this nature was not unusual.
He maintained there was no flouting of the immigration laws.
Tshwete said the application process began long before the controversy surrounding the family had started.
Immigration experts said they have been baffled by Gigaba’s explanation.
Professional immigration attorney Craig Smith said: “The minister per his own regulations breaches the regulation which requires one to hold permanent residence for 10 years.
“According to the documentation, they (Guptas) held permanent residence for less than that.
“You cannot be a national from another country that prohibits dual nationality unless you have revoked your existing nationality.”
He questioned whether the family had done so as the Indian government does not allow dual citizenship.
“His only power in this regard pertains to dealing with a discretion on ordinary residence and being out of the country.
“He has in my view acted unlawfully in granting the Guptas SA citizenship.”
Gary Eisenberg, who is considered the country's pre-eminent immigration lawyer, said: “When a person applies for dispensation, in effect they apply to the minister who due to his duties delegates this responsibility to senior officials with the department.
"Therefore, he in effect is rejecting the application, there exists no higher authority, thus to whom did the Gupta family appeal?”
He said he doubted that the attitude of the opposition parties towards the Gupta family would have resulted in the controversy.
Tshwete said it was unfortunate that the focus of the nation has been diverted towards “spurious sideshows” when the country was faced with economic challenges.
“The Gupta family has been permanent residents in South Africa since 2008.
“They appealed the initial rejection, which they are entitled to do, and the minister exercised his discretion in awarding the certificates of naturalisation due to exceptional circumstances.”
He said Gigaba has requested the Department of Home Affairs to provide the media with the Gupta family motivation for their application and any other issue relating to the matter, Tshwete said.