/ 13 March 2018

Gigaba shrugs off Gupta links

Minister Malusi Gigaba described the Gupta family as 'strangers' when he first attended the infamous Sun City wedding in 2013.
Minister Malusi Gigaba described the Gupta family as 'strangers' when he first attended the infamous Sun City wedding in 2013.

Home Affairs minister Malusi Gigaba has distanced himself from the Gupta family, describing the family as strangers when he first attended the infamous Sun City wedding in 2013.

During the inquiry into state-owned entities at Parliament on Tuesday, Democratic Alliance MP Natasha Mazzone grilled Gigaba about his involvement with the family. Gigaba has admitted to attending a diwali celebration and the luxury wedding hosted by the family .

But pressed by Mazzone on why he was accepted these invitations, Gigaba replied: “I don’t why they went out to me, but people do these things. I get invited to graduation ceremonies of people I have not met, but they feel you being there adds value, adds character to the ceremony”.

“I found that in particular many people in business would go to the extent of inviting celebrities and even paying celebrities to attend their functions,” he added.

Gigaba did not give specific details on how he met the Gupta family, but maintained that the introduction was not made through any particular person.

“I was actually not formally introduced. I think it was in the course of these invitations to diwali and the wedding that I got introduced [to them]… There’s nobody that I can attribute to that responsibility of introducing me,” he said.

Gigaba said that he could not remember if he had declared the luxury gifts he received from the wedding to Parliament, but said that he would check.

Hot-headed over tenders

Mazzone sat opposite Gigaba during the question and answer exchange. During their interaction, the two stared each other down, and occasionally sparred verbally.

At the beginning of her questions, Mazzone referenced Gigaba’s absenteeism from the House last week, saying: “I’m very glad you feel better this week and I hope your health continues to improve.”

But the exchange became heated when Mazzone pressed Gigaba on the common thread of Gupta interference that followed his appointment of board members at Eskom, Denel and Transnet.

“I don’t involve myself in tenders and it’s wrong to say ministers must involve themselves in tenders,” Gigaba said suddenly as he interrupted Mazzone’s line of questioning.

Gigaba also denied that he had been influenced by former SAA chairperson Dudu Myeni. In his testimony last year, former Eskom board chair Zola Tsotsi claimed Myeni had called a meeting with him at former president Jacob Zuma’s house in Durban in 2015 to discuss Eskom’s operations. Gigaba said that he had expressed “very strong displeasure at her [Myeni’s] performance” and had not been made aware of Tsotsi’s meeting with her.

He also denied that he was a favoured member of Zuma’s Cabinet, saying that he was only the third candidate in line to be selected for the finance minister position in one of Zuma’s snap Cabinet reshuffles last year.