Gigaba insists Ajay is not South African, but India’s government says otherwise

Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba reaffirmed in Parliament on Tuesday that Ajay Gupta is not a South African citizen, but the Indian government has contradicted him in a statement on the same day, saying that all three Gupta brothers do not have Indian citizenship.

Atul and Tony Gupta both have South African citizenship and carry South African passports, but Ajay Gupta was not granted citizenship because he refused to renounce his Indian citizenship, according to Gigaba.

Gigaba spoke on the issue around the Guptas’ naturalisation as South African citizens during his appearance at the Parliamentary inquiry into the maladministration of state-owned entities.

“Yes, Atul Kumar Gupta is a South African citizen, naturalised in 2002 when I was not even a member of Parliament,” Gigaba said.

READ MORE: The beginners’ guide to the Guptas

Gigaba said that Rajesh “Tony” Gupta was naturalised in 2006, but the Home Affairs department refused to grant Ajay Gupta citizenship on the grounds that he had refused to forfeit his Indian citizenship. Ajay, however, has been granted a permanent residency permit by the department.

The law, Gigaba said, required Ajay to renounce his Indian citizenship in order to qualify for naturalisation.

He said that the Home Affairs department would have been violating the law if it had granted Ajay citizenship.

“That is not the case, which means that we followed the letter of the law to its full extent and did nothing against it,” Gigaba said.

But it was reported on Tuesday that the Indian government denied Ajay has citizenship in the country, raising questions about what citizenship the Gupta brother currently holds.

The minister said that he had made an error when he earlier said that Atul is not a South African citizen, and he had failed to verify his information with the director-general of home affairs. Once alerted by officials that he had made a mistake, Gigaba said that he had rectified and issued a press statement for clarity.

“I erroneously referred to Atul Gupta as not a South African citizen and I rectified it immediately,” he said.

The minister maintained that he had nothing to do with the naturalisation of the Guptas as South African citizens. He said that a screenshot of Atul’s passport issued in 2015, which has circulated on social media, did not mean that Atul did not have previous passports.

“He was naturalised in 2002, prior to me even being a member of Parliament. It means this person [Atul] already qualified to hold a South African passport,” he said.

He said that the Gupta family had initially applied for naturalisation in 2013. That application was rejected in 2014, he said, and the family appealed the decision. In 2015, the home affairs department established a panel to make a finding on the issue, and all the members were naturalised, except Ajay.

Gigaba’s tenure as home affairs minister began in 2014 and ended in 2017 when he made finance minister. He was recently returned to the home affairs post in President Cyril Ramaphosa’s first Cabinet reshuffle.

Ajay Gupta is currently considered a fugitive by South African law enforcement and is wanted by the Hawks. Reports emerged at the weekend that Gigaba is considering revoking his permanent residency.

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Raeesa Pather
Raeesa Pather
Ra’eesa Pather is a Cape Town-based general news and features journalist.
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