Malusi Gigaba. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
Malusi Gigaba. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

Home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba has rubbished accusations that he had a corrupt relationship with the Guptas and that he was a key player in the state capture project.

Gigaba testified before parliament’s home affairs committee on Tuesday night.

The committee is investigating how members of the Gupta family, some of whom have close ties with former president Jacob Zuma, were granted citizenship even though they did not meet the requirements. Gigaba was home affairs minister from May 2014 to March 2017. He returned to the portfolio in 2018 after a stint as finance minister.

While he admitted to attending functions hosted by the Guptas, Gigaba said this was in his professional capacity.

“As I have said, as a public representative I attend many functions and interact with many stakeholders. It does not follow that I am beholden to them. I have done no favours for the Guptas; neither have I received any gratification from them.

"I attended the Diwali functions and wedding, with other cabinet members present at these functions …. As a public representative and a politician, it is inherent in my role to interact with as many stakeholders as possible, to be accessible to them and to hear their perspectives. It does not follow that I am beholden to someone because I have interacted with them in a space where there are many other people.

“I have been to [the Guptas'] home when invited to functions there in the presence of other public representatives and many other people including at their home. This is not evidence of some corrupt relationship, which I in any event deny,” Gigaba said.

Earlier on Tuesday, President Cyril Ramaphosa's announced that he had accepted the resignation of Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister and appointed former Reserve Bank governor Tito Mboweni to the post. 

Nene asked Ramaphosa to relieve him of his duties following public pressure over his testimony at the state capture inquiry, at which he admitted to meeting the Gupta family on numerous occasions, and at their private Saxonwold home.

Read Gigaba's full statement below:

The Guptas are accused of looting state-owned entities with the help of Zuma and cabinet ministers. The leaked Gupta e-mails 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 the Guptas’ permits and made sure that the requests were attended to.

In his 22-page detailed submission to parliament Gigaba said he was aware of four Gupta family members who were granted citizenship. He said there was no wrongdoing on his part.

“From the submission, which I approved of the naturalisation of Gupta family members, only four of them were granted early naturalisation, namely, Mr Ajay Gupta’s mother, his wife and his two sons. These four Gupta family members are thus not the only persons who have been granted early naturalisation upon my approval based on a recommendation by the department…. [sic]

“The list of persons who were granted early naturalisation submitted to Parliament in terms of section 5(9)(b) of the Citizenship Act clearly demonstrates this. I am advised that this list was previously provided to this committee by the department,” said Gigaba.

He said the South African Citizenship Act, more specifically section 5(9)(a) thereof, provides that “notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in subsection (1)(c), the minister may under exceptional circumstances grant a certificate of naturalisation as a South African citizen to an applicant who does not comply with the requirements of subsection (1)(c) relating to ordinary residence in the republic. I have interpreted this to mean in the national interest and or on humanitarian grounds". 

“Accordingly, I’m called upon to consider granting early naturalisation in terms of section 5(9)(a) of the Citizenship Act when the department recommends that an applicant will make a meaningful contribution to society. Very often this contribution is as an investor or business owner who contributes significantly to economic activity or employment in the country. In other instances, it has been for academics or sportspersons,” Gigaba said.

“I have also in the past approved early naturalisation on humanitarian grounds. The department has already shown an example where we granted early naturalisation to an American mother on the grounds that her only family is her adult South African daughter. She motivated to the department on this basis. Her case was compelling, and her early naturalisation was granted.

“It would be a pity if this committee allowed a negative perception to accrue to this power the minister has in terms of section 5(9)(a) of the Citizenship Act because of one high profile case,” Gigaba said.