Home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
Home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

The head of parliament’s home affairs portfolio committee said on Tuesday that heads would roll over the granting of citizenship to the Guptas.

Committee chairman Patrick Chauke said: "How much did they [the Guptas] put into this country? The republic is gone.

"Heads will roll … It cannot be that we open up our country to criminals …"

On Tuesday night, home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba, who is also under pressure to step down in the state-capture saga, was set to testify before the committee.

He was expected to distance himself from the decision to grant the Guptas citizenship.

Gigaba was home affairs minister from May 2014 to March 2017. He returned to the portfolio in 2018 after a stint as finance minister.

The Guptas are accused of looting state-owned entities with the help of former president Jacob Zuma and cabinet ministers. The Gupta e-mail leaks suggest senior home affairs official Major Kobese was the Guptas’ point man in the home affairs foreign office in India. He is said to have received requests and instructions from Gupta lieutenant Ashu Chawla by e-mail to fast-track Guptas’ permits, and made sure that the requests were attended to.

In the e-mails, Gigaba was implicated in assigning two of his officials to posts in New Delhi and Mumbai, even though there allegedly was no vacancy that needed to be filled.

Rudie Heyneke of the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse previously told committee members that these deployments cost taxpayers and home affairs about R1.1m a year.

On Tuesday, the committee grilled Kobese, said to have played a key role in the removal of a senior official in the foreign office who is said to have questioned why the Guptas were getting preferential treatment.

Ronald Steyn, a senior official in the department of home affairs, was evidently moved from New Delhi to Munich to make way for Gideon Christians, said to have been more open to the Guptas’ requests.

DA MP Haniff Hoosen asked Kobese why the Guptas received preferential treatment with visa applications. Kobese responded by saying that at the time they were seen as major investors who would benefit the country.

"Our role is not to frustrate applicants but to facilitate their movement … there are weakness within the system … we need an intelligence-driven approach [to processing such visas]," said Kobese.

The home affairs portfolio committee is investigating how members of the Gupta family, some of whom have close ties with Zuma, were granted citizenship even though they did not meet the requirements.

phakathib@businesslive.co.za

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