Cape Town - Frustrated MPs sent former Home Affairs director-general Mkuseli Apleni packing on Thursday night, as they tried to get to the bottom of the Gupta family’s naturalisation fiasco.
Apleni acknowledged that he had signed the naturalisation papers for the Gupta brothers and their extended family. This happened even though the several members of the family did not meet the requirements for being granted citizenship, and Ajay Gupta had not renounced his Indian citizenship.
“I looked at the document(application), and I’m on record that I recommended the document. If I had an issue with it, I would have written and said I don’t support because of this, and this, and this,” Apleni told Home Affairs portfolio committee chairperson Hlomani Chauke.
The DA’s Haniff Hoosen pointed a departmental report which stated that the Gupta matriarch Angoori Gupta had applied for naturalisation on June 3, 2013 along with Ajay Gupta, his son Kamal Singh Gupta and Shivani Gupta.
They were granted even though the “exceptional circumstances” cited in their appeal, after their applications had been rejected, had not been verified by the department’s officials, including Apleni.
“Essentially your report to us (MPs) is that they all applied on June 3(2013) as a family,” said Hoosen.
Quoting another document provided by the department, he said on July 29, 2013 “Mrs Gupta submitted an application for naturalisation”.
He said all of the family members applied on different dates.
“For a year-and-a-half, you (Apleni) and the Minister (Gigaba) and everyone involved have been saying these guys applied as a family, ‘we had to consider them as a family’,” said Hoosen.
Gupta fixer Ashish Chawla then proceeded to lodge an appeal, on behalf of the family after three of their applications for naturalisation had been rejected. He had not cited exceptional circumstances for Ajay Gupta.
Gigaba had approved the naturalisation of the family on account of their investments, the jobs their companies had created, and “social responsibility”.
“We established yesterday that the social responsibility (exception) fell flat...they claimed that they had feeding schemes (in the North West province), it never happened,” said Hoosen.
Apleni said the department’s officials could not go directly to the Indian government to verify that Ajay Gupta had renounced his Indian citizenship.
“We had to go and approach Dirco, and sending it to the High Commissioner of India,” said Apleni.
Home Affairs requires that those seeking naturalisation from India, renounce their Indian citizenship which should be filed within six months.
“That document was filed two years later...this one was not a renunciation of citizenship in terms of the regulations,” Hoosen fired back at Apleni.