Pretoria - Home Affairs Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi on Sunday weighed in on the controversy surrounding the citizenship of former Tshwane MMC for Roads and Transport Sheila Senkubuge, saying the politician was born in the then Transkei homeland.
Motsoaledi said: “We wish to correct this information because it is grossly wrong. Because of the widespread interest in the matter, we went to retrieve the case file which gives all the information as far back as 36 years ago in 1983, which shows that her parents entered the former Transkei from Uganda to work at the Department of Education.”
He said Senkubuge was born a year later in the former bantustan, now part of the Eastern Cape. “The parents were given appropriate documents as it pertained in the former Transkei. As you know, all the people who were in the former Transkei were transferred into SA in terms of the laws which were agreed to during the transition from apartheid to democracy.”
However, he said the department would not like to speak further on the subject because it was under police investigation.
“The matter is with the police which limits the amount of information we can share with you because we believe that when it appears in court the Department of Home Affairs and the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) are likely to be the main witnesses.”
The minister said the police and IEC were investigating Senkubuge’s eligibility to registration and voting. “We would not like to offer you half-baked answers,” Motsoaledi said.
Criminal charges were laid against Senkubuge, who is embroiled in a sex scandal with embattled mayor Stevens Mokgalapa, who the DA has put on special leave, regarding allegations that she was not a naturalised South African citizen when her name was included by the DA on the candidates' list for a councillor position ahead of the 2016 local government elections. On Friday, Senkubuge resigned both as a PR councillor and MMC. The DA is investigating the sex claims.
The questions about her citizenship were contained in an affidavit made by a former DA councillor in Tshwane, Lex Middelberg, to the police on Saturday.
It also emerged yesterday that Senkubuge was “flagged” when she appeared before the DA selection panel ahead of the 2016 election. However, a second panel put her name through to the next round.
To add to the misery, her birth certificate circulating on social media yesterday was stamped in 1993, indicating that the politician’s birth was only registered 10 years after she was born.
In her letter to the DA, Senkubuge said she was born and raised in the Eastern Cape.
However, DA provincial leader John Moody refused to account for recruiting Senkubuge. He called on the IEC to explain its processes and for the law to take its course.
In response, IEC spokesperson Kate Bapela said it was the Home Affairs Department that was the custodian of the country’s citizenship.
Bapela said their responsibility was that of compiling and maintaining the national voters roll, and this included the verification of details of candidates against the National Population Register.
“Only holders of identity numbers that are accorded citizenship status on the register are entered into the voters roll. In the context of the processes outlined, the Electoral Commission confirms that Ms Senkubuge was verified as a citizen and thus placed on the voters roll.
“It is on this basis that she was able to contest as a candidate in the 2016 general elections of municipal councils,” Bapela said.
However, in the affidavit, Middelberg said: “In 2016 Ms Senkubuge stood as a candidate on behalf of the DA in the local government elections while she was still a foreign national and was elected to the council of the City of Tshwane on August 3, 2016.
“She was immediately appointed as an MMC in the executive of mayor (Solly) Msimanga and remained as MMC under mayor Mokgalapa.”
Asked for comment, Msimanga referred all enquiries to the IEC and the Department of Home Affairs. “If there is a list that is already approved it means people must have already done their work in terms of verification and all of that. I can talk about everything else but I cannot talk about this one,” he said.
DA regional leader Abel Tau, also acting mayor and MMC for Utility Services, said: “I think Sheila has been a responsible leader who does not want to drag the name of the City and divert attention from the more important work of delivering public services to the people.”
He said the matter regarding Senkubuge’s citizenship status was never brought to the DA’s attention.
“The IEC has vetted all of us and these are basics that they look at. I don’t think we can simply say the DA could have done better or not,” he said.
However, in an email shared by a City official, seen by the Pretoria News, Senkubuge’s citizenship status came into question on February 28, 2017.
In the email, the official said: “I received a call from Home Affairs notifying that the MMC Ms Sheila Lynn Senkubuge is a non-citizen of the Republic of South Africa and she does not qualify to have an official passport nor even a tourist passport of SA. They therefore advised that when she travels she should use the passport of her country of birth.”
In a statement, the ANC in Tshwane threatened to approach the Hawks through the SAPS to open a case of fraud and misrepresentation against Senkubuge.
“Additionally, the ANC will approach the IEC to remove the DA from the list of political parties for a possible violation of the Electoral Act and the Constitution of South Africa.”