Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba says the law does allow for naturalised citizens to have their citizenship revoked and claims the controversial Gupta family was not favoured when they applied for naturalisation.
Gigaba, on Tuesday, gave feedback on the meeting with the portfolio committee on home affairs in Parliament about the naturalisation of members of the Gupta family.
During the media briefing, Gigaba explained that five members of the family applied for naturalisation in March 2013. Of the five, some members had received their permanent residency in 2003 while others received theirs in 2008.
Ajay Gupta was granted permanent residency in 2008 and applied for naturalisation in 2013.
Gigaba added that legally, Ajay qualified for naturalisation but his application was rejected because the four other people he applied with sent in their application as a family, and not as individuals, and since there were members who did not meet the requirements, they were all rejected.
The department of home affairs rejected the family’s initial application in 2014 and indicated to them that they’d need to reapply in December 2017. The family then submitted a letter of appeal asking that they be granted naturalisation prior to 2017 as well as new documentation to support their appeal.
According to Gigaba, “the process of appealing to the minister if your application is rejected is provided for in the law” and the department, upon receiving the appeal, set up a review panel.
Gigaba, in terms of powers vested lawfully in him as home affairs minister, decided that exceptional circumstances – including the number of investments the family has in the country and the number of people they employ – existed to justify ignoring the eligibility requirements.
In May 2015, he decided to override the initial decision taken by the director general to reject the Gupta family’s application for naturalisation.
In a written response to a parliamentary question by the Democratic Alliance’s Haniff Hoosen in 2016, Gigaba, who was then home affairs minister, explained that he might, under exceptional circumstances, grant a certificate of naturalisation as a South African citizen to an applicant who does not comply with the requirements. Using the South African Citizen Act of 1995 which was amended by the South African Citizenship Amendment Act in 2010, Gigaba said he had lawfully approved their applications.
Gigaba stated at the time that “after careful consideration of the matter, I have decided by the powers vested in me under section 5(9)(a) of the South African Citizenship Amendment Act, 2010 (Act no 17 of 2010), to wave the residential requirements in regards to your application for naturalisation and grant you early naturalisation”.
Gigaba further explained that the Guptas were awarded naturalisation rights because of their contribution to the South African economy.
“The fact that Mr Gupta and family contribute to the economy of South Africa provided substantive grounds for consideration of their application for naturalisation under exceptional circumstances,” Gigaba wrote.
“We could not predict in 2015 that some members of these families would be suspected of corruption. But even so we’d have to wait for a court process to be completed,” Gigaba said.
Gigaba asserted that should members of the Gupta family be found guilty of a criminal offense in South Africa, their naturalised citizen status would be revoked.
“A certain Atul Gupta” is indeed a registered voter on the South African voters roll, the Electoral Commission of South Africa confirmed on Wednesday.
IEC deputy chairperson Terry Tselane Terry Tselane said Gupta was properly registered at a primary school in Saxonwold.
The IEC said voters must be South African citizens and in possession of a barcoded ID or smartcard.
“This appears to be a legitimate registration,” he said. — Tammy Peterson from News 24