Durban - Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has found former Cabinet minister Malusi Gigaba did not abuse his powers when he granted the Guptas citizenship while he was minister of Home Affairs.
Mkhwebane’s office released the finding of her investigation into Gigaba – one of eight reports – on Monday following a more than two-year probe into the matter.
According to her findings, Gigaba, while exercising his discretion as minister of home affairs in granting the Guptas naturalisation, had, however, breached the ethics code by not tabling their names in Parliament as required by law and that he made “misrepresentations in relation to that naturalisation process” during a press conference in 2018 when he denied Atul and Ajay Gupta were not citizens of South Africa.
The public protector probe into how the controversial family from India were given South African citizenship came after DA MP Haniff Hoosen and EFF MP Floyd Shivambu laid complaints about how they were given citizenship.
Mkhwebane found the process of naturalisation in terms of Section 5(9)(a) of the South African Citizenship Act, 1995, appeared to be inadequately regulated and, as such, due diligence was compromised, resulting in inadequate submissions by officials to ministers.
“In this regard, ministers are put at the risk of exercising their discretion on insufficient information,” the summarised version of the report stated.
“The public protector found that former minister Gigaba did not abuse the powers he was afforded in terms of the South African Citizenship Amendment Act, 2010, when granting certificates of early naturalisation to his alleged acquaintances, Mr Ajay Gupta and family, without proper validation of the requisite exceptional circumstances.
“Section 5(9)(a) of the South African Citizenship Amendment Act, 2010, bestows upon Minister of Home Affairs the discretion to waive the requirements of section 5(1)(c) if, in his opinion, exceptional circumstances exist that warrants the applicants continued residence within the Republic of South Africa,” the report said.
The report found Gigaba was in breach of the Executive Ethics Code by failing to submit the names of persons who were granted South African citizenship under exceptional circumstances to Parliament every year, as required in terms section 5(9)(b) of the South African Citizenship Act, 1995.
Mkhwebane found that Gigaba “misrepresented facts” at a press conference held on March 6, 2018, when he denied that Atul Gupta was not a citizen of South Africa and even though he rectified the mistake the next day he had broken the public trust placed upon him in terms of Parliament Ethics Code.
The public protector noted that any remedial action against Gigaba would serve no “judicious purpose” as he had resigned as a Member of Parliament and minister of home affairs.
“The Minister of Home Affairs is directed to take cognisance of the findings on the improprieties identified in this report and ensure that such conduct is not repeated. He must ensure that appropriate corrective action is taken to prevent the recurrence of the improprieties referred to in this report.
Mkhwebane directed that the Director-General (DG) of the Department of Home Affairs take cognisance of the findings on the improprieties identified in the report and ensure that such conduct is not repeated.
“The DG must also consider taking appropriate action against departmental officials who were involved in the naturalisation of Mr Ajay Gupta and family for their failure to exercise due diligence by verifying the accuracy of the information contained in the motivation for early naturalisation which was relied upon by the former minister, in approving and granting the certificates for naturalisation to Mr Ajay Gupta and family.”