A former South African minister was cleared Monday of multiple allegations that he abused his power while granting early naturalization to members of the controversial Indian Gupta family.
Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane noted that former Interior Minister Malusi Gigaba had violated the executive’s code of ethics by failing to register in parliament the names of people who, in exceptional circumstances, were granted citizenship under the provisions of the South African Citizenship Act.
However, the public protector said the minister did not abuse his power in approving the Gupta family’s early naturalization.
“I applaud the main finding of the Public Protector’s Report, which clears me of the baseless allegations that I partially chased myself out of the Cabinet in November 2018. I will not comment on the rest of this report until I have myself consult with my lawyers. ”Gigaba, 49, tweeted.
Well, I applaud the main finding of the Public Protector’s Report, which frees me from the baseless allegations that I partially chased myself out of the Cabinet in November 2018. I will not comment on the rest of this report until I have consulted with my lawyers.
– Malusi Gigaba (@mgigaba) February 8, 2021
Gigaba was accused by President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Zondo Commission of Inquiry into the State’s Capture of receiving large sums of money from the Guptas on several visits to their former palace in Johannesburg.
Gigaba granted citizenship to Ajay Gupta and other family members on the recommendation of high-ranking members of his department.
Mkhwebane has recommended that appropriate action be taken against four of these senior officials who were involved in the naturalization of the Gupta family for failing to exercise due care.
They had recommended Gigaba grant naturalization, among other things because of the family’s business investments and the large number of jobs they had created for South Africans.
“The verification process was found to reveal material misrepresentations and inaccuracies in the information contained in the motivation on which the former minister relied in approving and issuing naturalization certificates to Mr. Ajay Gupta and his family,” so the public protector said in her report.
The Gupta family, from Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh, have amassed fortunes in the IT, media and mining industries in South Africa over the past two decades, allegedly due to their proximity to former President Jacob Zuma, who is himself subject to allegations of corruption.
Most of Guptas’ assets in South Africa are expected to be auctioned off to repay the creditors as the brothers fled to Dubai.
The three Gupta brothers Ajay, Atul and Rajesh and their families went into exile in Dubai after allegations surfaced that their companies illegally withdrew billions of rand from South African parastatal companies because of their alleged proximity to former President Zuma.
The South African government has launched extradition proceedings to restore it to a wide range of alleged corruption charges after a number of people reported to the Zondo Commission.
In March 2019, the South African parliament recommended revoking the citizenship granted to the Guptas.
The public protector also noted that Gigaba was misrepresenting facts after telling a media conference in March 2016 that Atul was not a South African citizen. Gigaba corrected this at another press conference the next day.
With Gigaba stepping down from his position in November 2018, Mkhwebane said there was no point in taking remedial action against him.