Cape Town – Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba on Tuesday said there was nothing untoward about him granting members of the Gupta family South African citizenship.
In a statement, Gigaba confirmed the authenticity of documents circulated via social media channels by the Economic Freedom Fighters.
The emails show Gigaba used his power as then Home Affairs Minister to overrule a senior official's refusal to grant the family citizenship because they did not have five years physical residence in South Africa.
Gigaba's office said the minister legally granted the family naturalisation in terms of the powers granted to him in his previous post under the South African Citizenship Amendment Act, 2010.
"The application was handled in line with the procedure that requires that the Department of Home Affairs submits recommendations to the Minister for consideration," Gigaba's office said.
"The granting of naturalisation certificates of this nature is not unusual. Similar courtesies have been extended to prominent businessmen, including executives of multi-nationals, and sports people. There is no impropriety on the part of the Minister in relation to how the application in question has been handled."
Gigaba's office went on to accuse the media of sensationalising the matter and being "unfair" to the minister, saying he had requested the home affairs department to make available all documents relating to the Gupta family's application for naturalisation.
"It is not true that Minister Gigaba 'opened the gates' for the Gupta family; the Gupta family has been permanent residents in South Africa since 2008. Furthermore, there is no 'bombshell' in relation to this matter, given that everything was done within the prescripts of the law."
On Monday, the EFF released two documents on social media – one signed on behalf of the then director general of home affairs denying the Guptas citizenship.
The other document, signed by Gigaba, granted the Indian-born family early naturalisation.
The EFF threatened to challenge their citizenship in court.
"The EFF has therefore taken a decision to approach its lawyers to take the matter to court so that Gigaba's favours can be corrected and the Guptas, like all other ordinary foreigners who seek citizenship must be subjected to due process. Gigaba's decision was irrational and based on nothing else but his corrupt relationship," the party said on Monday.
Gigaba was appointed home affairs minister in 2014.
He was then moved to head the Treasury ministry in a late-night cabinet reshuffle in March that saw Pravin Gordhan and Mcebisis Jonas fired as finance minister and deputy minister respectively.
Gigaba's name has popped up in the leaked #GuptaEmails that implicate him in intimate dealings with the wealthy and politically-connected Gupta family.
He has denied any wrongdoing and has questioned the credibility of the leaked emails.