Gigaba: Nothing unusual about granting Guptas early SA citizenship

Minister of Finance Malusi Gigaba. (Reuters)

Minister of Finance Malusi Gigaba. (Reuters)

Minister of Finance Malusi Gigaba has hit back at claims that he granted the Gupta family early naturalisation as South Africans because of his “corrupt relationship” with them, saying the decision was taken with adherence to the law and with no impropriety.

“The granting of naturalisation certificates of this nature is not unusual. Similar courtesies have been extended to prominent businessmen, including executives of multinationals and sports-people. There is no impropriety on the part of the minister in relation to the manner in which this application has been handled,” Gigaba’s office said in a statement on Tuesday.

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) announced its intention to legally challenge the Gigaba’s decision, taken while he was minister of home affairs in 2015. EFF leader Julius Malema on Monday released letters to the public showing the Guptas application was initially declined by the acting director general, and later approved by Gigaba.

“Gigaba’s decision was irrational and based on nothing else but his corrupt relationship,” EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said in a statement.

Five members of the Gupta family, including Atul Gupta, applied for early naturalisation. The request was denied in January 2015 by the acting director general of the home affairs department, who said the family had not yet been residents of South Africa “for a continuous period of five years” and could thus not be granted naturalisation.

Three months later, in May 2015, Gigaba wrote back to Atul Gupta informing him that he had decided to grant their request.

“I have the pleasure of informing you that after careful consideration on the matter, I have decided by the virtue of the powers vested in me under section 5 (9) (a) of the SA Citizenship Amendment Act 2010, to waive the residential requirements in regards to your application for naturalisation and grant you early naturalisation,” Gigaba wrote in the letter leaked by Malema.

The EFF said Gigaba had used this clause, which entitles him to grant citizenship under exceptional circumstances, to “make favors to his friends the Gupta family in a situation where there are absolutely no exceptional circumstances, to bypass the law”.

The party said it would approach the court to reverse Gigaba’s decision.

Home Affairs director general Mkuseli Apleni said his department was still contemplating its response to the saga, but would not hesitate to act if any wrongdoing was discovered.

“We can’t leave something like that, because already questions have been asked of me in particular. But even if it is there is something [that went wrong], we won’t hide it,” he told the Mail & Guardian on Tuesday.

Gigaba’s office has called on the home affairs department to make public the motivation that led to him approving the Gupta’s application for early naturalisation.

 

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