Gupta brothers Ajay and Atul. File picture: African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Johannesburg - The potential witnesses who may be called to testify before the parliamentary inquiry into the naturalisation of the Guptas next month should not expect to be treated with kid gloves.

On Wednesday, Home Affairs Portfolio committee chairperson Hlomane Chauke warned that witnesses may come out with "bruises" at the inquiry scheduled from September 11 until September 14.

"We are to get into serious business. We must be clear of the foundation. People are to be bruised when they appear before this committee," Chauke said.

Chauke made the comments when the committee continued with discussions on the report prepared by the parliamentary research and legal services on the early naturalisation of the Guptas.

The committee met to consider issues that required further information and chart the strategy for the inquiry after it received the report on Tuesday.

The report details the granting of citizenship to the several family members and lays bare the documentation the family of Ajay Gupta submitted to the department when they appealed to Minister Malusi Gigaba after their application was rejected.

It lists possible witnesses including Gigaba, former ministers Mangosuthu Buthelezi and Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, former business associate Nazeem Howa and former Home Affairs Department officials Mkuseli Apleni and Richard Sikakane, among others.

During Wednesday’s meeting, DA's Haniff Hoosen said the Gupta brothers should be called to testify.

"Whether they are here or not is another issue, but we must add them. They are the ones who have a lot to answer for," Hoosen said.

His colleague, Archibold Figlan questioned why former Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was not on the list of potential witnesses.

Parliamentary researcher Adam Salmon said: "Looking at the timeline of all permits and visas that were issued, there was nothing that happened during her tenure."

Chauke said Gigaba's discretion would be closely probed.

"If they qualify by law for citizenship and were granted, we can't be seen fighting over that, but if the process was fraudulent... that is what we must deal with very harshly."

Salmon said former ANN7 editor Rajesh Sundaram, who published a book about the establishment of the Gupta news channel, had sent an affidavit detailing irregularities under the employ of the controversial family.

Salmon said Sundaram claimed in his affidavit there were contraventions of visa and labour regulations.

Despite the availability of sufficient qualified South Africans, across departments at ANN7, Atul Gupta allegedly insisted on hiring staff from India in order to exploit them for longer periods and pay them lower salaries.

He also said the Indians employees entered the country on tourist visas with the intention to convert into work permits at a later stage.

“Labourers were brought in with tourist visa to assemble a television studio and lived on a construction site in Midrand under subhuman conditions.”

Salmon said Sundaram alleged that one of the Gupta's associates liaised with persons at the department to ensure visas were speedily issued.

Salmon said Sundaram, who is "now a potential witness", claimed to have made a complaint to the department on his return to India but until now has not received any response.

“He attached emails sent to Department of Home Affairs’ senior staff in 2013 indicating these allegations,” he added.

Political Bureau

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