RESPONSE TO THE COMMITTEE’S “INTERIM REPORT ON STATE CAPTURE”
1. Firstly, I would like to thank the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs (“the Committee”) for the opportunity to assist the Committee on its oversight work on the Department of Home Affairs (“the Department”).
2. I am confident that this process will assist Parliament and the country, at large, to establish, beyond any shadow of doubt, that the various allegations underpinning the request for the Committee to investigate my involvement in state capture through the granting of citizenship to the Guptas are without basis, whatsoever.
3. As part of this ongoing investigation, I have been furnished with a report titled “INTERIM REPORT ON STATE CAPTURE”, dated 15 August 2018, containing a list of 26 questions which the Department has been asked to respond to.
4. The Department has submitted a comprehensive response to these questions.
5. I shall refer to this response when necessary.
6. From the onset, I wish to record that I was only appointed as Minister of Home Affairs, the first time around, after the 2014 National Elections.
7. It will appear hereunder that I, at no stage during my tenure assisted the Gupta family, or any other private interest group, to capture the State.
8. The objective reality is that, out of 62 persons with the surname Gupta who are recorded on the Department’s systems, only 5 were dealt with by me – that is Mr Ajay Kumar Gupta; his mother, Mrs Angoori Gupta; his wife, Mrs Shivani Gupta; and their two sons, Messrs Surya Kant Singhala and Kamal Kant Singhala.
9. Mr Atul Gupta and his family were not processed during my tenure. Mr Atul Gupta is recorded as having entered the country on 11 January 1994 and was naturalized in 2002.
10. Mr Rajesh Kumar Gupta and his family were also not processed during my tenure. Mr Rajesh Gupta is recorded as having entered the country on 22 April 1998 and was naturalised in 2006.
11. What is noteworthy is that even Mr Ajay Kumar Gupta, the only Gupta brother whose naturalisation application was processed during my tenure, is recorded as having entered the country on 08 May 1999 and was granted permanent residence in 2008.
12. Honourable members, I was not the Executive Authority of the Department during the various relevant periods.
13. Yet, in spite of all of this, a narrative has arisen among certain sections of the media and the opposition that I am responsible for naturalizing the Gupta family through irregular means, thus unjustifiably labelling me as one of the key “state capture” enablers.
14. Now, let us turn our attention back to the 5 members of the broader Gupta family who were processed during my tenure.
15. According to the records of the Department, the application for Naturalisation by Mr Ajay Gupta was first received in 2013 before I became the Minister of Home Affairs. I’ve been advised that this application was not processed during this period.
16. I am further advised that later in 2014 Mr Ajay Gupta and his family – his mother, Mrs Angoori Gupta; his wife, Mrs Shivani Gupta; and his two sons, Messrs Sutya Kant Singhala and Kamal Kant Singhala further submitted 2 separate applications for Naturalization each.
17. Although the initial application of Mr Ajay Gupta was submitted before I became the Minister of home affairs, the subsequent applications of Mr Ajay Gupta and his family were received during my tenure in 2014. Accordingly the rejection of the applications which took place on 23 December 2014 occurred at a time when I was the Minister of Home Affairs, on the basis that both Mr Ajay Gupta’s mother and wife did not satisfy the requirements for Naturalization in respect of the time frames contemplated in section 5(1)(c) of the Citizenship Act, read with regulation 3(2)(a) of the Regulations made under the Act.
18. At all times due process was followed within the department relating to the rejection of the application by officials of the department without any suggestion of improper interference by me. The perception therefore that I acted in bad faith in relation to the Naturalization process of the Gupta family is false and without any basis.
19. To the extent that it is necessary to state that, applications of this nature are only referred to the Minister by the department in circumstances where my discretion is sought in terms of Section 5(9)(a).
20. Had the application for Naturalization in terms of section 5(1) not been rejected and section 5(9)(a) early Naturalization not been invoked a submission would not have been presented to me nor would the matter have been brought to my attention.
21. My involvement in the matter was as a result of section 5(9)(a), request for early Naturalization being invoked. It should be born in mind that this request was submitted directly to the department and not submitted to me at the first instance. I only became aware of this request through a formal submission by the department, signed by all the line managers responsible.
22. I subsequently received a submission from the department duly signed by all the relevant line function managers, recommending that I approve the request by Mr Ajay Gupta and family for early naturalization.
23. In exercising my discretion, I duly applied my mind to the submission presented to me by the Department and approved their recommendation, as is the norm in similar applications.
24. Accordingly, I signed the Department’s draft letter to Mr Ajay Gupta and his family informing them of my decision to approve their request for early Naturalization based on the information before me.
25. It is important that I highlight here that the letters sent to all applicants for early Naturalisation are in a standard form and the approval of early Naturalization is subject to, amongst others, section 5(1)(h) of the Citizenship Act which, states that citizens of countries that do not permit dual citizenship must first renounce the citizenship of their country of origin before they are naturalized as a South African citizen.
26. My role in this process ends after the signing of the letters aforementioned. The department thereafter facilitates the process, without reverting to me on how matters are finalized after the submission returns to the department with the signed letters.
27. In respect of Mr Ajay Gupta, I’m advised that he did not renounce his Indian citizenship and was, therefore, not naturalized. Accordingly, as matters stand, Mr Ajay Gupta is not a South African citizen.
28. Therefore, from the submission which I approved of the Naturalization of Gupta family members only 4 of them were granted early Naturalization, namely, Mr Ajay Gupta’s mother, his wife, and his two sons.
29. These four Gupta family members are thus not the only persons who have been granted early Naturalization upon my approval based on a recommendation by the Department. The list of persons who were granted early Naturalization 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.
EARLY NATURALIZATION AND THE CITIZENSHIP ACT
30. A request for early Naturalization can be submitted in the following ways:
(a) At one of the front offices of the Department;
(b) To the headquarters of the Department;
(c) Or to the Ministry.
In this instance I’m advised that the request for early Naturalization was received through a Junior official in the department who had been communicating via email with one Mr Chawla of Oakbay.
31. As has been explained exhaustively in the submission dated 07 September 2018, submitted to the committee , the Citizenship Act, more specifically section 5(9)(a) thereof, provides that “[N]otwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in subsection (1)(c), the Minister may under exceptional circumstances grant a certificate of Naturalization 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.
32. Accordingly, I’m called upon to consider granting early Naturalization 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.
33. I have also in the past approved early Naturalization on humanitarian grounds. The department has already shown an example where we granted early Naturalization 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 Naturalization 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.
34. I shall now proceed to deal with aspects of your “Interim Report on State Capture” which are not in question form that is already responded to by the department
OVERVIEW OF THE COMMITTEE INQUIRY
35. I have been unable to identify in the report provided by the committee any evidence of wrong doing on my part. It is unfortunate that this issue of the Naturalisation of one family, has been used to cast aspersions on me as part of an ongoing narrative about my involvement with the Gupta family.
36. I will now deal with some specific points from the report.
37. Ad paragraph 1 (ii) – (iii)
I have already dealt with this in my opening statement.
38. Ad paragraph 1 (iv)
It appears from the report that on 03 August 2017 you received a report from OUTA which refers to leaked Gupta e-mails which are “said to implicate misconduct” on my part and other persons.
39. The reference in the report pertaining to my advisor, Mr Thamsanqa Msomi read with an email which purports to be an instruction from me sent by an administrator in my office, Mr Siyamthanda Skota, is hardly i substantiation for OUTA’s sweeping statements maligning me
40. I shall deal with this in detail when I get to paragraph 7 of the report. But at this stage it suffices to state that the emails relied upon do not in any way provide evidence of any alleged wrongdoing on my part. There is not a single email produced which is addressed to me from any party associated with the Guptas. Nor is there any evidence of email correspondence from myself to any party associated with the Guptas or any other person for that matter.
41. Ad paragraph 1 (v)
Unfortunately, there was an administrative omission in the Department’s tabling of the early Naturalization list in Parliament. This is an administrative function performed by the Department for tabling by the Minister. It is clear that even in the years before I became the Minister of Home Affairs, the tabling in Parliament as required by section 5(9)(b) of the Citizenship Act was omitted.
42. This omission cannot constitute an attempt to “cover-up evidence of state capture” which I, at any rate, submit has not been established.
43. The Department deals extensively with paragraph 1 (vi) to viii) in the submission dated 07 September 2018.
44. Ad paragraph 1 (xiii)
Mr Thamsanqa Msomi is my special advisor. Since this issue made the news, I have asked him about the said emails. He has informed me that he, indeed, received an email from Mr Ashu Chawla, in April 2015, requesting assistance for visas for his clients. Mr Msomi further advises me that he forwarded the said email to the department for processing in the ordinary cause.
45. The Ministry receives correspondence from the public on a regular basis and such is forwarded to the Department for further attention.
46. I must indicate that I find it rather peculiar that although the report makes mention of other Department of Home Affairs and Presidency officials, it does not go on to identify them by name. Which makes me wonder if Mr Msomi is only named to perpetuate the unfounded narrative that I am connected to the Guptas.
Ad paragraph 7 – Gupta leaked Emails related to Home Affairs
47. Paragraph 2 - No evidence of misconduct has been presented to me.
48. Paragraph 3 - The counter corruption unit in the department is undertaking investigations in this regard including other issues that arose from previous appearances before this enquiry.
49. Once the investigation has been completed and recommendations made, the department will have to implement appropriate consequence management.
50. The Department has extensively responded on the process regarding Mr Christians’ deployment to New Delhi, including his history in the Department. I’ll deal with this in detail below where I respond to OUTA’s testimony.
51. I approve all deployments of employees to foreign missions after an extensive process and recommendation by the Department.
52 The Department has extensively responded on the process regarding Mr Christians’ deployment to New Delhi, including his history in the Department.
53 In 2015 I, accompanied by the DDG Immigration Services, Mr Mckay and delegation, undertook a working visit to all the Brics countries, except Brazil.
54 When we arrived in India, as in the other countries, we had a meeting with the High Commissioner who complained about the huge backlogs at the mission and of an irreparable breakdown in the working relationship between his office and the 2 officials who were deployed at the mission.
55. Mr Mckay then confirmed the decline in service delivery at the mission. Upon our return, I called a meeting with Mr Mckay and his team to come up with a solution for the challenge at New Dehli, given that it is a Brics partner, which is one of the major tourism and investment hubs.
56. I then requested to be advise on the performance prior to this deployment. I was informed that in the previous term, Mr Christians and Mr Mgabe were deployed at the mission and there had been no challenges experienced. These individuals were not known to me.
57. It became apparent that the Departments failure in 2013, due to budgetary constraints, to send officials to be placed abroad on practical training in the country to which they would be deployed led to our failure to qualitatively assess whether the person-to-post matching would be suitable.
58. Mr Steyn was amongst those to be deployed to New Delhi, India in July 2013. It was clear that Mr Steyn’s placement in India was a mismatch and this resulted in strained relationships with the High Commissioner and impacting negatively on service delivery.
59. I then requested that officials who would be suitable to the environment, who would hit the ground running and be able to resolve the problems immediately, be looked into for an immediate solution.
60. A submission was then submitted to me advising me in line with the meeting that was held.
The submission recommended that I approve the appointment of Mr Christians and Ms Munyandziwa, which I accordingly approved.
61. On page 17 of the report, it is mentioned that Mr Christians communicated with Mr Chawla as far back as 19 September 2011. This makes it clear that, according to the information before the Committee, Mr Christians and Mr Chawla started communicating years before I became the Minister of Home Affairs. I only met Mr Christians for the first time during these proceedings.
62. Now, this information was not at anyone’s disposal at the time and even the security clearance process done independently by the SSA approved a Top Secret clearance for Mr Christians.
63. This was not an isolated incident. I have on several occasions upon complaint being raised with me and advises from the department intervened in instances that compromised the countries integrity in foreign missions.
64. As an executive authority of the department and the mere fact that I approve these deployments after advise by the department I cannot turn a blind eye when I’m requested to intervene in the interest of efficient and effective service delivery.
65. In 2015, I was called by the High Commissioner in Zimbabwe on inefficiencies at the mission. I requested the department to advise me on the issue and redeploy the official. This was done.
66. In 2016, I also received a complaint by the High Commissioner in Kenya, I also requested the department to act swift. I similarly did the same after receiving complaints in Swaziland, Shangai and Lagos.
67. I wish to equivocally state that I have no personal relationship with any of the officials named.
68. I do not understand then why Mr Christians is being linked to me.
69. It is mind-boggling, to say the least, how the report still seeks to imply a link to myself by virtue of the alleged communications between these two gentlemen.
Ad paragraph 8 [page 18]
70. There is reference to an email dated 6 October 2015 sent by Mr Siyamthanda Skota of my office.
Mr Skota is an administrator in the Ministry responsible for receiving and dispatching all correspondences in the Ministry.
- In line with this paragraph, it is malicious and opportunistic to state that Mr Skota sent “a submission referring to instruction by Minister Gigaba in which he directed that one Ms Munyadziwa and Mr Christians were to be transferred to Mumbai and New Delhi respectively”.
71. I have since been provided with the email sent by Mr Skota on 06 October 2015. This is a standard email that Mr Skota sends to the Department when returning submissions to the Department. Mr Skota was merely returning to the Department, the submission approved by myself, authorizing the deployments as recommended by the department.
The email is addressed to several officials and reads:
“Subject: request for approval for strategic deployment of officials in missions
Please find attached herewith a signed submission for your attention. The original copy was sent back to the department via DG’s office this morning.
He then sets out his email signature.
72. Honourable members, this is my input to your draft report accompanied by the 2 slides and the responses submitted by the Department on 07 September 2018.
I now wish to respond to OUTA’S TESTIMONY BEFORE THE INQUIRY
1. Testimony: According to your report Chawla was NATURALIZED on 09 November 2011.
Response: I was not the Minister of Home Affairs when Chawla was naturalized.
2. Response to invites to events
It is interesting that OUTA only singles me out as having received invites for these events as if it was a personal thing. Many political figures and high profile persons attended these events when I was there.
It seems as if they want to prove some form of close relationship or some form of gratification to support their allegation of me having done favours for the Guptas.
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.
3. Testimony: 30 May 2015 Minister Gigaba signed official letter to grant Gupta family early naturalization
Response: Yes, I signed the draft letter prepared by the department approving Naturalization for the Mr Ajay Gupta family, as stated above.
4. Testimony: September 2015 Chawla wrote to Minister regarding another motivation for an early naturalization approved by the Minister and certificate issued on 17 December 2015.
Response: The representative from OUTA stated that he did not know if the email was sent to me not, again insinuations are made with no evidence.
I have never communicated with Mr Chawla. I have never seen or been made aware of any other Naturalization applications for the Guptas except for Mr. Ajay Gupta and family that I approved as per recommendation and made mention of in my submission above.
OUTA must provide proof of the said email, and prove that I approved the said Naturalizations and that I signed the certificates.
I deny this with the contempt it deserves.
5. Testimony: OUTA makes Reference to emails showing close relationship between me and Gupta family.
Response: from the testimony before the committee OUTA states that they have no emails directly implicating me. All that they rely on are emails of other persons. This is absurd.
6. Testimony: Reference made to emails showing close relationship between Minister and Gupta family.
Response: OUTA itself admitted that there is nothing in their emails that involves me. There’s no proof of a close relationship, but they attempt to deceive the public into believing a false narrative unsupported by any evidence.
7. Testimony: People ask Chawla to use his contacts and contact Minister
I have never been contacted by Chawla. Which people are these and where is the evidence to support this? This statement is not supported by any evidence before this Inquiry.
8. Testimony: No vacancies available in New Dehli and Mumbai and Christian was nevertheless posted
Response: This is incorrect. This issue is dealt with extensively in my statement above. The submission made no reference to there being no vacancies at the Mission
9. Testimony: On 1 April 2015 DHA official sent Mr Chawla an email for the requirements of early Naturalization
Response: I have no knowledge of this communication
I wish to categorically state that I do not know Mr Chawla. I have since requested the department to provide me details of Mr Chawla. I have been advised he received permanent residence in 2003 and was naturalized in 2011.
I do not understand why this person who entered the country sometime ago, and has never communicated with me is being linked to me.
GENERAL COMMENTS ON OUTA
My major concern with OUTA is that they have not produced any evidence whatsoever implicating me in any crime nor unethical conduct, yet this has not prevented them from tweeting on the same day of the enquiry that “OUTA HAS PRODUCED DAMNING EVIDENCE AGAINST GIGABA TO THE INQUIRY”, knowing very well that they did not.
What makes this more egregious is that on their own evidence during this committee’s hearing they conceded that they have been unable to identify any email linking me to any wrong-doing relating to matters concerning the Guptas.
Quoting from their response to questions put by the Chairperson, Mr Heyneke stated that: “No we have not established anything as facts…No, no evidence or email”. When pressed by the chair to substantiate their allegations by reference to any emails Mr Heyneke resorted to lamely submitting that that they have presented what they have, remarking that: “It is not our business to establish the facts, it is up to law enforcement to do”.
It is disconcerting that such allegations would be made without any attempt to corroborate same or afford me an opportunity to respond thereto.
Absent any incriminating evidence there is no basis for such allegations. Notwithstanding the lapse of over a year to provide substantiation of wrong-doing on my part, none has been identified.
The notoriety in which OUTA makes allegations of this nature, demonstrates unequivocally bad faith on their part.
It is a matter for adverse comment that the OUTA representative who filed the complaint with the police and deposed to the affidavit was not the party who presented evidence before this committee, resulting in Mr Heyneke being unable to speak to the allegation. I submit this was by design so that Mr Heyneke could hide behind the absence of this person in dealing with pertinent questions put to him in this regard and instead rely on innuendo and hearsay.
This is demonstrated in their continuous peddling of these lies by even REPORTING IN THE MEDIA THAT THEY HAVE SUBMITTED EVIDENCE OF EMAILS TO THE COMMISSION ON STATE CAPTURE WHICH IMPLICATES ME, where there is none.
The only reasonable explanation is that they do not have any information, but have an urge to continue their false narrative which is without foundation.
It is prudent to state that it has become apparent that there are governance and administrative glitches which we have identified from the DHA side.
We have since formed a governance reforms team which is mandated to look into cause of these glitches particularly in the Civic Services and Immigration branches.
This work will also assist a great deal in supporting the repositioning of the Home Affairs.