Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba is yet to explain the naturalisation of the Guptas. Picture: REUTERS/James Oatway/File Photo
Cape Town - Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba is far from being let off the hook regarding the explanation required on the naturalisation of the Guptas.

This is despite Home Affairs director-general Mkuseli Apleni on Tuesday explaining to the portfolio committee the law and processes followed when his former boss used his discretion to grant the naturalisation certificate to the family.

Neither Gigaba, nor current Home Affairs Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize, attended the meeting as they had tendered apologies.

Even acting Home Affairs Minister Faith Muthambi did not pitch up in place of Mkhize.

Their failure to attend sparked angry responses, especially from opposition MPs.

They 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 the committee was not respected. “We want Hlengiwe Mkhize and the former, 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.

“We must engage with documents before us and if there are any issues, we can take them 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. This committee type of probe won’t be successful,” he said.

Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Mulder said it was not for officials to do the bidding of ministers.

“Those ministers should come and account,” Mulder added.

The IFP’s Sibongile Nkomo echoed his sentiments, saying the “main” people to account were the ministers. “We need those ministers. They need to be summoned."

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 then minister, Gigaba, to waive the requirements on their exceptional circumstance.

In their appeal for a waiver, they cited their investments in the country, the employment of 7 000 people and investments of R25 million, among others. 

“The minister with powers vested in him decided to waive,” Apleni stated, adding that Gigaba had applied his mind based on the recommendation by officials, including himself.

Apleni explained that the family were supposed to have renounced their Indian citizenship. All the family members, except Ajay, did renounce their citizenship.

“It means that Mr Gupta never renounced his naturalisation. Mr Gupta has not been naturalised,” Apleni said.

“He is still a permanent resident holder. People who naturalised are these four,” he said.

Apleni also said the department was required to have tabled the names of people granted citizenship by naturalisation to Parliament, but that never happened.

“The last report was submitted in 2012. Since 2013, it was an omission,” he said, adding that they were working toward ensuring the reports for the outstanding years were tabled.

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.”

Political Bureau