Ajay and Atul Gupta File picture: Independent Media
Parliament - A R25 billion investment, employment of 7000 staff and R1million worth of charity in the country were deemed by Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba as “exceptional circumstances” to grant naturalisation of the Gupta family.

This emerged on Tuesday when the portfolio committee on home affairs received documentary evidence of the Guptas’ investment and charity contributions in the country.

Gigaba used his ministerial discretion to grant citizenship to the Guptas despite the fact that several members of the family had not lived in South Africa continuously for five years, which caused their initial application to be rejected.

During a briefing to the committee, director-general Mkuseli Apleni said the minister could under exceptional circumstances grant a certificate of naturalisation or citizenship.

“It does not spell out the exceptional circumstances,” Apleni told the MPs.

He said the Guptas had in their appeal cited more than R1m in donations to 75 schools, reaching 50000 people in the mining communities of North West.

Apleni said the Guptas has also referred to the 7000 “permanent and decent” employment opportunities created in their group of companies. Their company, Oakbay, had stated that it invested R25bn in various entities in the country.

MPs, especially those from the opposition, were sceptical of the documentary evidence.

Questions were asked about the authenticity of the documents and veracity of the information.

The parliamentarians claimed some information had been “scratched” in documents, phone numbers of schools provided in the documents were not working, and the ID numbers of some contact people were incorrect.

The ANC’s Nomhle Dambuza said the documents presented many questions: “The minister might have been given the wrong information.”

The EFF’s Hlengiwe Hlophe-Mkalipi questioned why it took the department so long to submit documents requested last year by the committee.

“Did you verify those documents? There are a lot of contradictions,” Hlophe-Mkalipi said, pointing to the 7000 jobs created in what she said was theft from state-owned entities.

She noted a discrepancy in the 54 shoes apparently donated to one school costing R54 000, as well as identical amounts spent on many schools for lunch and refreshments.

“It does not take an accountant to see this is inflated. In fact, this is an insult to the committee,” Hlophe-Mkalipi said, before asking Apleni to come clean on the matter.

The DA’s Haniff Hoosen said it was a pity Apleni had to answer questions that should be put to Gigaba.

He identified discrepancies in the dates of the documents submitted as part of the application for the quotes, such as the denunciation of the Indian citizenship.

“This is a case of damage control,” Hoosen insisted.

But Apleni noted “with concern” that some of the MPs appeared to disregard the truth, listening only to what they wanted to hear.

“As the accounting officer of Home Affairs, I talk about facts,” he said. He repeated to MPs the procedure his department followed in granting naturalisation to foreigners.

“If information that is provided is incorrect, that is why we revoke the citizenship of people,” he said.

The Star