Home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER
Home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER

Home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba violated the constitution and the Executive Ethics Code by lying in court, public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has found.

Mkhwebane said on Thursday that she investigated a complaint laid by DA MP John Steenhuisen after the high court in Pretoria found in December last year that Gigaba had told “untruths” under oath in the matter between himself, in his capacity as home affairs minister, and the Oppenheimers’ Fireblade Aviation in a legal battle about operating a private terminal at OR Tambo International Airport.

She has now directed the president to take appropriate disciplinary action against Gigaba for violating the constitution, the ethics code and parliament’s own code of ethics.

President Cyril Ramaphosa must advise Mkhwebane within 20 days of receipt of the report on action he takes. The speaker of the national assembly, Baleka Mbete, has 30 days from the publication of Mkhwebane's report to provide the implementation plan on steps to be taken against Gigaba for breaching parliament’s code of ethical conduct.

Mkhwebane said the court also held that “by telling a deliberate untruth on facts central to the decision of the case, the minister has committed a breach of the constitution so serious that I could characterise it as a violation”.

Steenhuisen had said in his complaint that Gigaba not only lied under oath but, echoing the public protector, also acted in breach of his constitutional duties as well as the Executive Ethics Code.

Mkhwebane said Steenhuisen’s allegation was substantiated and gave Gigaba an opportunity to respond, but he failed to do so.

The Oppenheimers insisted in parliament on Tuesday that they obtained all the necessary approvals to operate a private terminal and dismissed claims they had bribed senior government officials ahead of the deal being finalised.

Responding to questions from MPs, Nicky Oppenheimer said Gigaba had lied to parliament when he stated he had not approved the family’s private terminal in early 2016.

He said he took offence at insinuations that the family had paid a bribe to obtain the approvals. He said Gigaba had said at the time he was delighted to approve the terminal, but the family was ‘‘astounded” when he later changed his mind, denying he had ever approved it.

The matter eventually ended up in court, where a judge found Gigaba had lied. Gigaba lost his appeal to a full bench of the high court‚ as well as an appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal‚ and has decided to take the matter to the Constitutional Court.