Cape Town - More cabinet ministers are set to be hauled before Parliament to explain the naturalisation of the controversial Gupta family, who are at the centre of damning allegations of looting of state coffers running into billions of rand.
Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba has been at pains explaining that some of the Gupta family members were naturalised long before he became the political head of the department.
It has now emerged that there was a strong push to broaden the scope of the inquiry into the naturalisation of the family to include all cases of the granting of citizenship to foreigners by the Home Affairs Department, dating back almost a decade.
This came just a day before the parliamentary portfolio committee on home affairs met to prepare for its inquiry.
Committee acting chairperson Donald Gumede said they would finalise the terms of reference on Monday.
“The committee has said we must get to look all the cases of naturalisation and citizenship granted under the different ministers,” Gumede said.
“We want to know who is linked to the Guptas and what were the circumstances to grant them naturalisation,” he said, adding that the cases were not many, putting the figure at 20.
The inquiry is not expected to take long "unless something happened", he said.
“We are all concerned about this,” Gumede added.
The home affairs portfolio committee is among the four that were ordered by chairperson of committees Cedric Frolick to investigate allegations of state capture involving cabinet ministers since the leak of the Gupta emails in June last year.
The Communications Department was ordered to probe former minister Faith Muthambi over allegations that she shared confidential documents with the Guptas, among others.
The home affairs committee took a decision to pursue an inquiry into the early naturalisation of the Guptas only three weeks ago after the official opposition, the DA, tabled a motion and was supported by the ANC.
Earlier attempts were thwarted, while Lemias Mashile was still the chairperson.
On Monday, the DA’s Haniff Hoosen said it appeared there had been a shift in the ANC.
“They want to get to the bottom of this thing,” Hoosen said.
“The terms of reference should allow us to probe any matter and the involvement of the minister.”
Hoosen added that there were many cases of early naturalisation that should be probed.
“There are people in the ANN7 (24-hour news TV channel) from India who were brought into the country without the necessary documents. I want us to get to the bottom of that,” he said.
The Home Affairs Department, under Gigaba, had waived naturalisation requirements although some Gupta family members had not continuously lived in South Africa for more than five years.
Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba Picture: Cindy Waxa/ANA
It previously furnished the committee with documents as proof of the family's investment and charity work that was used as the basis of “exceptional circumstances” in their early naturalisation.
However, questions were asked about the authenticity and veracity of information the department provided.
The Gupta brothers - Atul and Rajesh - were naturalised in 2002 and 2006 respectively.
Ajay’s wife Shiwani, mother Angoori and sons Kamal and Suraya Singhala were naturalised in 2015 after their initial group application was rejected in 2014.
At the time Atul was naturalised, the minister of home affairs was Mangosuthu Buthelezi.
Current Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula was at the helm when Rajesh was naturalised.
Mapisa-Nqakula’s spokesperson Joy Peter said the minister would welcome the parliamentary inquiry to look into the matter during her term.
“She can't stop Parliament. She can't say no,” Peter said.
“If Parliament says there is a need to conduct an investigation into the naturalisation of the Guptas, she will welcome it, definitely,” Peter said.
Buthelezi could not be reached for comment but had previously said Atul was already a permanent citizen when he applied for naturalisation.
He had said applications were processed by the department, which checked that all the legal requirements were met and then sent to the minister for signing.
“In my capacity as minister of home affairs, over 10 years, countless files crossed my desk. I do not specifically recall Mr Atul Gupta's application, but this is not surprising as there was nothing contentious about him at that time,” Buthelezi said when the issue made headlines last month.
“Clearly no red flags had been raised by the department over his application, as any red flag would prevent the file from coming to the minister. The application would have been rejected,” he said.