Former Home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba did not flout the law when granting the Gupta family South African citizenship and merely took the advice of the department’s top officials.
This is according to home affairs director general Mkuseli Apleni‚ who briefed parliament’s home affairs oversight committee on the decision to grant the Guptas early naturalisation.
One of the concerns raised by MPs was how the department and Gigaba had failed to inform Parliament about the decision as stipulated in the regulations.
MPs were also not impressed at the absence of Gigaba and current home affairs minister Hlengiwe Mkhize despite being invited by the committee last week to come and address allegations of impropriety in the Gupta naturalisation saga.
In written apologies to the committee‚ Gigaba and Mkhize cited prior commitments for their no-show.
Apleni admitted that the department “omitted” to submit the list of naturalised Guptas to parliament‚ which should have been done within 14 days of such a decision.
Section 5(9)(b) of the Act requires the Minister to inform Parliament “within 14 days after the commencement of the sittings of Parliament in each year”.
“What it is‚ it was an omission‚ that is what we are saying. We did not table that. Was it only Gupta family at Mr Gigaba’s time only when the department did not do that? The requirement is for tabling. It doesn’t say there is a condition that parliament must look at that (list) and then says were are happy and therefore you can proceed. It’s not a condition to grant the citizenship. That’s what we are saying‚ that for not tabling it’s not correct. We should have tabled‚ and by not tabling it can’t be equal to they are null and void‚” said Apleni.
He said the department had also made the same mistake with other citizens in previous years.
Apleni added that the decision was not taken unilaterally by the Minister.
“There is no minister who sits in a corner there and just does this. Officials prepared documents for a minister and we recommend. A minister can either approve or disapprove based on what we have done. The discretion lies with the minister‚” said Apleni.
This while there were only two per year during the tenures of his predecessors‚ Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and Naledi Pandor.
MPs now want Mkhize and Gigaba to be summoned to the meeting after failing to attend.
DA Chief Whip John Steenhuisen expressed his unhappiness at their absence‚ saying they were the ones who should be answering on this matter and not Apleni.
But ANC MPs defended the two ministers‚ saying Apleni was well positioned to provide them with information.