Minister of Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba. Picture: Bongani Shilubane/
With a parliamentary inquiry into the early naturalisation of some members of the Gupta family to be held next month, Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba has distanced himself from the matter, saying there is no way he could have been involved in the process.

Gigaba was speaking on the sidelines of a naturalisation ceremony conducted by his department in Durban where more than 270 foreign nationals were handed their naturalisation certificates as they became official South African citizens.

Parliament has set aside at least four days next month to conduct an inquiry to investigate the early naturalisation of members of the Gupta family.

This was announced when the home affairs portfolio committee met on Wednesday to consider a report of the preliminary investigation by the parliamentary research and legal services.

Former ministers of home affairs, including Mangosuthu Buthelezi and Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, as well as the current minister, Malusi Gigaba, could be called to testify in Parliament’s inquiry.

“The law is clear about how people get naturalised; the minister does not get involved anywhere in the process.

“All of these 273 people who today took the oath of allegiance to the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa none of them had their application approved by the minister,” Gigaba said.

He said he never got involved in any processes leading up to the awarding of the country’s citizenship to foreign nationals and he only met those being granted citizenship on the occasion of the naturalisation ceremony.

“It's been made very strict over the years, with amendments which were done from 2010, 2011, 2012 in the citizenship act,” said Gigaba.

He said the laws were made to ensure that obtaining South African citizenship was not simple and added that although appeals submitted by people whose applications for citizenship had been rejected, were submitted to him, he did not oversee the appeals.

He said he only signed the certificates of naturalisation after recommendations were made to him by the department’s committees.

“The process is very strict and all of those documents are going to be submitted to Parliament and the portfolio committee is going to recognise the strictness of the process and how it is conducted and that there are no loopholes.

"If there are any loopholes, we’re confident the portfolio committee is going to identify them and point at how we should close those loopholes,” Gigaba said.

Patricia Lizelle James, 37, a teacher from Zimbabwe, said she had been living in South Africa for 30 years and only received her naturalisation certificate yesterday because of issues with her documentation over the years.

“I’m so excited about officially becoming a citizen because I love this country, my four kids are from South Africa and my husband is also from South Africa," she said.