Angry MPs have proposed that finance minister Malusi Gigaba be summoned to parliament to explain his decision to grant the Gupta family early citizenship.
Fuming lawmakers from both the governing ANC and opposition parties were also unanimous in their unhappiness at the absence of current home affairs minister Hlengiwe Mkhize and director general Mkuseli Apleni on Tuesday morning at a meeting called to discuss the naturalisation of the Gupta family.
The Guptas were naturalised as South African citizens by Gigaba during his tenure at home affairs in May 2015 after their original application was declined by officials of that department in January that year.
The legality of Gigaba’s decision has been called into question after it emerged that parliament had not been informed of the naturalisation of the Guptas‚ as required by law‚ and now the home affairs portfolio committee wants answers on the matter.
ANC MP Maesela Kekana expressed anger when it emerged that Apleni and Mkhize would not be attending the meeting.
Mkhize and Apleni were attending other business in the National Council of Provinces‚ despite earlier confirmation that he would attend the home affairs committee meeting.
“This thing of the minister and the DG that are not available is total disrespect for the committee. It’s a matter of public interest and‚ yes‚ it needs to be attended as such. I propose that we summon the minister and previous minister and DG to come. It’s not something that they just volunteer. They account here and must respect parliament‚” said Kekana.
The DA’s Haniff Hoosen also expressed his displeasure upon hearing that Gigaba and Apleni would not be at the meeting.
“I requested that the minister (Gigaba) himself appears before the committee to explain this matter. The fact remains the decision was taken by minister himself. I’m not sure to what extent the department officials can answer on behalf of the minister‚” said Hoosen.
He said he was saddened by his absence “because it creates the impression he’s got something to hide.”
Hlengiwe Hlophe of the EFF said the absence was baffling because MPs had received text messages from the secretary of the committee assuring them that Apleni would be present.
“As members of the committee we are told here now that even the DG is not coming. This meeting needs former minister Gigaba to brief us on this matter. We deserve to be getting an explanation on this matter‚” said Hlophe.
The ANC’s Dineo Raphuti suggested that they postpone the meeting.
Corne Mulder of the Freedom Front Plus said MPs would also need the “political process” as well as the administrative process explained to them.
DA MP Archibold Figlan said it was “clear that we need to speak to the former minister”.