‘Gigaba lied’ – Public Protector

Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba lied under oath about the Fireblade saga, Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane confirmed on Wednesday.

Her findings on a complaint brought to her office by Democratic Alliance (DA) chief whip John Steenhuisen was the last to be announced amid a slew of reports released by Mkhwebane at a media briefing at her offices in Pretoria.

“I found that the allegation that Minister Gigaba violated the Constitution and the executive members ethics code where he told untruths under oath was substantiated,” Mkhwebane said.

Steenhuisen issued the complaint in February after the Pretoria high court ruled in December 2017 that Gigaba told lies about his agreement with Oppenheimers under oath.

READ MORE: Liar liar: DA disrupts Gigaba budget speech after high court declares he lied

The judgment relates to a matter brought by Fireblade Aviation, a company owned by the wealthy Oppenheimers, to seek an order from the court that would force Gigaba to implement a decision he had earlier made allowing Fireblade to manage customs and immigrations at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.

According to Nicky Oppenheimer Fireblade was granted permission to offer a customs and immigration service at the airport in 2016. But later Gigaba tried to renege on their deal.

The Oppenheimers argued in court that the Guptas had influenced Gigaba’s decision to turn down their request.

“Unfortunately, there is no escaping the conclusion that the rejection of the minister’s version must carry with it the conclusion that [he] had deliberately told untruths under oath,” read the judgment.

Mkhwebane said in her report on the matter that, as a member of the executive, “telling an untruth” under oath or before a court of law is a direct violation of the Constitution, the Executive Ethics Code and the Parliament Code of Ethics.

Mkhwebane said that following her investigation she sent Gigaba a section 9 notice informing him of her findings to give him an opportunity to respond. She said she gave him 10 days to respond, but he did not.

The Oppenheimers testified before Parliament’s home affairs committee on Tuesday. Both Nicky Oppenheimer and his son, Jonathan, reportedly maintained that the Fireblade agreement was made in a cordial meeting in January 2016.

Tuesday’s hearing was disrupted by Black First Land First (BLF), which reportedly announced its intention to lodge fraud, bribery and corruption complaints with police against Nicky and Jonathan Oppenheimer.

READ MORE: BLF threatens bribery charges against Oppenheimers

BLF spokesperson Lindsay Maasdorp told media: “The charges relate specifically to the private ownership of Fireblade as an airport inside of the airport. Our view is that this is a corrupt process that followed no government protocol as it was simply rubber stamped at Luthuli House.”

The Oppenheimers’ testimony regarding Gigaba’s conduct compounded what has already been a difficult week for the minister.

On Sunday, Gigaba revealed that a sex-tape had been stolen from his phone and leaked to the public. He alleged that the tape was being used to blackmail him.

READ MORE: Gigaba says tape of ‘sexual nature’ used in blackmail attempts against him

In light of her findings, Mkhwebane has asked President Cyril Ramaphosa to take disciplinary action against Gigaba. The president must within two weeks of receiving the report outline any action taken in this regard.

Mkhwebane has also asked the Speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, to present a plan on steps to be taken against Gigaba for his violating the Parliament Code of Ethics.

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Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She covers topics relating to labour, corruption and the law.

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