Mkuseli Apleni. Picture: PUXLEY MAKGATHO
Mkuseli Apleni. Picture: PUXLEY MAKGATHO

Parliament’s home affairs portfolio committee has expressed disappointment at the decision by home affairs director-general Mkuseli Apleni to step down.

"While the committee acknowledges that departure is inevitable, the resignation of Mr Apleni comes at an unfortunate time," committee chairman Hlomani Chauke said Tuesday.

"The committee is preparing to reflect on some of the department’s work, including the Fireblade Aviation issue and the Gupta naturalisation process, which the committee hoped Mr Apleni would have assisted in resolving."

Chauke said the committee was also disappointed he was leaving at a time when the department "is in a process of reinvention, aimed at making it a world-class institution".

"The achievements of Mr Apleni and his management team in stabilising an underperforming department are commendable. Some of the notable achievements include reaching over 80% of targets, digitising [department] processes and improving financial controls," he said.

Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba confirmed on Monday that Apleni had resigned to pursue opportunities in the private sector.

The home affairs portfolio committee has been pushing to get to the bottom of the controversial decision by the department to grant some members of the Gupta family South African citizenship.

The committee agreed earlier in 2018 to institute a full-scale inquiry into the matter.

In March, Apleni said that of the five Guptas who had applied for naturalisation‚ four were naturalised after they fulfilled the requirement to renounce their Indian citizenship, given that India does not allow dual citizenship.

The exception was Ajay, who "only holds a permanent residence permit".

This contradicted the version presented by Gigaba’s predecessor, Hlengiwe Mkhize‚ who previously stated that two Gupta brothers‚ Atul and Ajay‚ were granted citizenship based on their business investments and social partnerships.

The committee also wanted answers on the Fireblade matter.

The case concerned Gigaba’s decision to overturn approval for the Oppenheimer-owned Fireblade Aviation to operate a private customs and immigration service at OR Tambo International Airport.

A judge found the minister to have lied to the court.

He lost his appeal to a full bench of the high court‚ as well as his appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal‚ and has decided to take the matter to the Constitutional Court.

phakathib@businesslive.co.za