Minister Malusi Gigaba and senior officials of the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) were subjected to intensive interrogation when they appeared before the third hearing of the Parliamentary inquiry into the naturalisation of the Gupta family implicated in the “State Capture” saga. The Portfolio Committee probed the removal from the South African High Commission in New Delhi of an official who worked strictly “according to the law” in dealing with visa applications, and his replacement with an official who had submitted his CV to the Gupta compound in Saxonwold. They delved into the roles and responsibilities of the Department’s human resources senior management in dealing with transfers of personnel and the processing of applications for naturalisation. Throughout the lengthy hearing, Members sought clarity on the closeness of the relationship between the officials involved and members of the Gupta family.
Minister Gigaba strongly denied that he had done anything wrong in granting them citizenship, and rebutted any suggestion that he had given any preferential treatment to the family. He was at pains to challenge what he called a “conspiracy theory” and the “irrational logic of the chain of events.” He told the Committee that all the due processes of the Department were followed and not a single step was overlooked. The family was not granted preferential treatment. Their application was done and dealt with in the normal course of events and took place over a period. He further submitted that if he had wanted to favour the family, “we would have overlooked the fact that Mr Ajay Gupta still had to renounce Indian citizenship and would have just simply granted him South African citizenship. We did not. We followed the law to the letter and offered him the opportunity to renounce his Indian citizenship.”
When probed about his relationship with the Gupta family, the Minster repeatedly said it was
professional, and not personal. He confirmed he had attended the family’s Diwali functions and visited the Gupta household in Saxonwold more than once for social cohesion reasons, before and after he became a Minister. It was established that he had a 10-year relationship with the family.
Members’ questions on the application for early naturalisation probed the manner in which it was lodged, the veracity of the claims made to justify the application, such as the investments, job creation and community support, why there was a need for urgency, and whether the Minister would agree that due diligence had not been carried out in this instance.
The Minister responded that he had established a governance reform process, where senior management and the audit function in the Department had been instructed to review governance procedures regarding specific matters in the Civic and Immigrations Services in the Department. Two of the matters to consider were who could apply for naturalisation for whom, and the framework for what due diligence entailed. The Department was of the view that what it had done was what it had been doing all along with regard to conducting due diligence when people had been applying for early naturalisation. He described how the Guptas’ naturalisation application had been processed. The mere fact that the law provided for early naturalisation was an acknowledgement that there were occasions when someone may not wait for when they qualify in the normal course of events, but may need to apply for early naturalisation because of exceptional circumstances.
Members insisted that the Minister could not run away from the fact that he was the political head of the Department, with political responsibility. He should therefore have exercised more caution in considering the approval of early naturalisation, and the potential conflict of interest as indicated in the Executive Ethics Act, since he had known the family for ten years.
The Minister also denied that he had approved and initiated the transfer of Mr Ronald Steyn from the Home Affairs office in New Delhi to Munich, because he wanted Mr Christians there instead, who would unreservedly facilitate visa applications for the Guptas. He maintained that he had advised the transfer following the High Commissioner in New Delhi informing him of problems between him and Mr Steyn, which had impacted on their working relationship, and due to the backlog in applications it was preferable to get officials who had previously worked there, such as Mr Christians, to assist. The Minister said he was shocked to discover that Mr Steyn had not been made aware of any problems or relationship problems with the High Commissioner.
The Chairperson of the Committee said that Mr Ashu Chawla, who was a naturalised South African, was at the centre of facilitation of visas for the Gupta family and work permits for their employees. Mr Chawla was in India taking care of his sick mother, and would appear before the Committee only in first week of December. The Department of Home Affairs was requested to provide a formal report on how Mr Chawla appeared wearing sunglasses in his identity document (ID).
The first DHA official to testify was Mr Ronald Steyn, who described how he had been advised by telephone of his transfer from New Delhi to Munich, without reference to any particular reason. He had been unaware of any complaints regarding his performance, but had willingly accepted the transfer to escape the poor working conditions in India in exchange for the more attractive Munich environment. He processed visa applications according to the law, but there were occasions when he was instructed to prioritise certain applications by his superiors in the DHA, and conceded that those involving Gupta-linked companies received preference, compared to other companies.
Mr Major Kobese, Mr Steyn’s direct supervisor, said he had been advised by his Chief Director of the decision to recall Mr Steyn, who had said it was because of a breakdown in his relationship with the head of mission. He had not investigated, however, because the decision had already been taken by his superiors, and he had no suspicion of any ulterior motive. He was questioned about his relationship with Mr Chawla and the Gupta-linked ANN7 in promoting a music company he had established, and confirmed that on several occasions, at the behest of the Minister, who had been contacted by Mr Chawla, he had sent emails to New Delhi to speed up certain visa applications.
Ms Nkidi Mohoboko and Ms Charlotte Mocke from the DHA’s human resources department, explained in detail the legal advice and support it provided to the Immigration Services department to deploy Mr Christians from South Africa. The problem, or the challenge, was that the two officials who had been identified to replace Mr Steyn -- and at that stage, his colleague -- in the New Delhi mission were within the borders of South Africa, so it was not an intermission transfer process that could be used to take them to New Delhi. They had been called in to advise whether this could be done within the terms of the law.
Mr Jackie McKay described the visa backlog situation in India, and his visit in 2015 to New Delhi with the Minister, after which he and the Director General had had a meeting with the Minister, at which it was decided to replace Mr Steyn and his colleague with officials who could cope better in a high pressure environment. The decision had come from the Minister, and was supported and implemented by himself and the Chief Director: Foreign Office Coordination. This had been done without any written confirmation of incompetence on the part of Mr Steyn. Mr McKay was also asked to explain the circumstances surrounding a presentation to the Minister and DHA officials by BLS International, a Gupta-related company that provides visa facilitation services, whose joint managing directors are Mr Nikhil Gupta and Mr Shikhar Aggarwal.
The Chairperson said the Committee would wrap up the inquiry before the end of this year after the testimonies by witnesses, former Director General Apleni, Mr Ashu Chawla, and again from Mr McKay. After that, it would submit a final report with recommendations and suggestions to the Department on the gaps and legislation that needed amendment. The report would then be tabled in Parliament and once it was tabled would be implemented if the recommendations were adopted. The Committee would also decide what to do about those who had lied under oath during the inquiry.
Chairperson’s summary of proceedings so far
The Chairperson said the Committee would to be proceeding with the work that was before the Committee on the inquiry with regard to the naturalisation of the Gupta family. He gave a summary of the work that it had done so far, in particular of the witnesses who had appeared before this Committee, so that one could follow the engagement today. Colleagues would recall that the inquiry started with the first witness, notwithstanding all the work they had done before involving the Department, the Minister and Accounting Officers. There had been quite a number of meetings and an exchange of information, both from the Department and the Committee, asking questions for clarity.
The first witness had been the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA), whose input was on the emails which had been called the “Gupta-leak emails,” which in fact necessitated this particular inquiry today. OUTA made a submission to Parliament that Parliament should investigate these matters and the matter was then referred to the Committee from the office of the Chair of Chairs.
Immediately after the Committee engaged with OUTA, it had dealt with the authenticity of those emails. Generally, all Members seemed to accept that those emails were relevant to the work they were going to do as a Committee, because they took it that any information that could help the Committee to arrive at an understanding to make a proper conclusion would help it. So those emails which were discussed with OUTA had been used again to engage officials of the Department. The Committee was aware that most officials of the Department accepted those emails. Only on one or two occasions did officials say they did not know how they went out from their system, or did not know how they had sent a particular email, but in general there was an acceptance of the information in those emails.
The Committee had then dealt with having to understand the first entry of the Guptas into the country. It had invited Mr Jackie McKay, Deputy Director General, Immigration Services, Department of Home Affairs (DHA), to talk to it about that particular detail, but there were still a number of things that were outstanding. One of the questions he had been asked was, how many Guptas there were in the country, outside the three brothers’ family. It was hoped that that information was going to be provided at this meeting today.
After receiving input from Mr McKay, the inquiry took the Committee to Mr Major Kobese, Director: Appeals, and then to Mr Gideon Christians, First Secretary: Immigration and Civic Affairs, South African High Commission in New Delhi, India, where applications for visas, work permits and holiday visas were processed under Mr Christians, with the involvement of Mr Chawla. He was in fact transferred to the New Delhi office by the Department, and Mr Kobese had had to take the Committee through the process. In the transfer of Mr Christians to the New Delhi office, an official by the name of Mr Steyn had been transferred to the Munich office, and the Committee had wanted to understand the reason for his removal. The information it received was that Mr Steyn had problems in the office. People were not happy about his operations there, and there were problems. The Committee established that to an extent the matter was then referred to the Director General, Mr Mkuseli Apleni, who said that on the basis of the advice he got from professionals, he had agreed with them to remove Mr Steyn and send him to Munich. So Mr Steyn was at today’s inquiry to explain himself.
The Committee had then moved to Civic Services, where it dealt with the applications for citizenship. The first person to appear had been the Deputy Director General, Mr Vusi Mkhize. By now, Members knew what he said, especially that the applications came as individual applications. All along in the whole saga, the Committee had been informed that they came in as a family application. Mr Mkhize said that the applications came as individuals, which meant that the children, Ajay Gupta and the grandmother had applied separately. The Committee had probed that and he had stood his ground that the applications came separately. It was then trying to understand from which office these applications had been processed, and that was what the Department still had to indicate.
In the process with Civic Services, the Committee had invited the Member of the Executive Committee (MEC) for Education in the North West Province, because part of the application for early naturalisation referred to the social responsibility work the Gupta family was doing in that province in particular. 75 schools had been identified as being supported by the Gupta family and their companies, and that was when it had got to know from the MEC that there was no such support. The only thing that they knew of was the competition to design the wedding invitation for the wedding that took place at Sun City.
The Committee then got to know that Mr Chawla, at the end, had written a letter directly to the Minister requesting the early naturalisation of the two sons and their grandmother -- not Ajay Gupta and not his wife -- but the Department had decided to package everything as a family and grant citizenship to the family. Ajay Gupta had then refused to renounce his Indian citizenship, and the application automatically fell away. The Committee had dealt with the internal matters regarding Civic Services’ adjudication committees -- both Mr Richard Sikakane and Mr Norman Ramashia, the officials who confirmed their qualifications at that meeting. At the same time, they denied that they were part of such processes and that is why the Committee had ended up having to call other people, which he would announce today.
The Committee had had to engage with Mr Apleni as the Accounting Officer. It had been pressed for time, and he had come with a lot of information that he had not previously shared with the Committee. It had been very difficult to follow what Mr Apleni was referring to, because the Committee did not have the information that Mr Apleni had. He had brought a lawyer, who was advising him on the side. By the time the Committee took a decision, Mr Apleni had already disclosed a number of things that had happened under his leadership, such as the deployment of Mr Steyn to Munich, and of Mr Christians to the New Delhi office. He had already shared with the Committee the second adjudication committee’s work on the early naturalisation application, which Mr Sikakane at some point had said he was not part of, but at some point he was. Mr Mkhize, DDG: Civic Services, Mr Apleni, DG and Accounting Officer, and Minister Malusi Gigaba, had all signed the early naturalisation informed by a letter written by Mr Chawla. Where Mr Apleni signed, he had not indicated whether he agreed or did not agree. He did not confirm or deny. He left it open. He only put his signature. Under oath, Mr Apleni said he meant that he supported the early naturalisation.
The Chairperson said he did not want to go back to the questions around the due diligence, because that was information that would be in the Committee’s report.
At today’s meeting, they would be dealing with the following witnesses:
- Mr Ronald Steyn, who had been redeployed to Munich, on the grounds that he had been causing problems in New Delhi;
- Mr Major Kobese was back, because when the Committee dealt with him there were areas where it was not satisfied. He had not taken it through the process properly, and had said that the gaps that the Committee were opening and trying to close, was because it wanted to sink him. He might sink today, because he needed to close those gaps. At this meeting today, the Committee would have to get the truth around deployment, the relationship with the Guptas and the issuing of permits under Mr Kobese, Mr Chawla and Mr Christians. Mr Kobese would have to clarify a number of things. He mentioned in his report that he had submitted that all foreign deployments were appointed by the Minister. He would to speak to that today.
- Ms Nkidi Mohoboko, DDG: Human Resources, and Ms Charlotte Mocke, Chief Director: People Management, which is where transfers happen and where people are moved from one office to the other. She would clarify her involvement in the deployment. What was not told to us was that when Mr Christians was redeployed, he had a serious sexual harassment case here in the Western Cape. So she would have to talk to us about that particular case.
- Mr Jackie McKay will again be on the stand to discuss the administration of the transfers.
- Minister Malusi Gigaba.
From the start, the Committee thought the inquiry was going to be over in one or two days, and then we would be done. It now realised it was deeper than it thought, and that it was dealing with serious mismanagement and fraud, hence it had expanded the inquiry. It wanted to go more deeply into understanding each person’s role in the early naturalisation of this family. Members would recall that it wrote to the Indian High Commissioner from Parliament requesting the confirmation of these individuals that it had identified, as to whether they had renounced their Indian citizenship. So far, that information had not been received from the Indian High Commissioner. The Committee may have to escalate the matter, either through the Minister of International Relations, or via the office of the President. One cannot write a letter of such a nature, which requires such information at that level, and not receive a response. It was not known if they had in fact renounced their citizenship.
The inquiry would not be over when the meeting closed. With the Minister, it would proceed in the first week of December, because the Committee was not able to get Mr Chawla to come and testify on the dates that it had set up. At some point, it had received his lawyer’s confirmation that Mr Chawla was available, but he was in India. Both the Committee and the lawyer started work on the date of his appearance, and they had responded on their availability. Mr Chawla was available if he was flown to South Africa on business class, return trip, from India because he was taking care of his ill mother. The only time he would be back in the Republic was the end of November. The Committee had checked with Parliamentary processes, policies and procedures with regard to booking a flight ticket, and at that time cost of a return ticket was R77 000. It was clear that Parliament did not have the money with the economy and the challenges it faced, and it would not have R77 000 to pay for Mr Chawla’s business class ticket and for getting him a Hindu interpreter. He required a Hindu interpreter, although he was a South African and had been in the country for more than 17 years. He wrote the letter to the Minister for early naturalisation of the family in English -- but he cannot speak English to a point that he even made mention of buying “Kentucky” chicken for children in the North West, and for the first time the children had eaten Kentucky -- yet he said he wanted a Hindu interpreter. So the Committee would schedule the meeting for immediately when Mr Chawla lands, and it would take place in the first week of December.
The Committee would also schedule Mr Apleni for that meeting. Mr Apleni would have to build his case. It was understood that it was difficult for him, because he was now employed somewhere outside the Department, but in his own interests, he had to come and put his case. If he did not do that, the Committee would make a conclusion and its own recommendations and findings. The matter that it was dealing with was not a normal administrative matter. It was a serious issue that had to do with the citizenship of this country. So it was up to those individuals who wanted to be honest and fair, to make time and come and present their case before this Committee.
It was on this basis that the Committee was resuming this morning on the information that he had just shared. They would proceed with today’s meeting as he had presented the programme for today. Clearly, as he had said, it would take time they would not be rushing the process. They would be allowing Members to raise questions. They were not going to take group questions anymore because he had seen that when they did group questions, the Department was able to manoeuvre and would then answer certain questions. They were going to allow a Member to ask a question and the person who was on the stand would respond accordingly to that question and get another question. The Committee was going to take its time. It was not rushing.
The Chairperson asked the DG to speak on the file that was before the Committee, which came from the DHA. One of the things it had asked was for the Department to confirm a copy of the identity document (ID) of Mr Chawla. Members would remember that there was this copy that had Mr Chawla with sunglasses in the ID. The Committee had asked the Department to confirm this matter because this would be the only person in the country that could have an ID picture taken with sunglasses. It had asked them to confirm this if it was true, and the acting Director General of Home Affairs would speak to it.
Mr Thulani Mavuso, Acting Director General: DHA, said he had a delegation from the Department. It referred to colleagues that had been mentioned in the letter that the Chairperson had sent to the Minister to appear today. There were also other colleagues who had been here before. He asked them to introduce themselves and then thereafter he would go quickly through the file and explain what had been brought in it.
The DHA officials introduced themselves.
Mr Mavuso said he wanted to indicate that the DHA had packaged the file in order for them to give the Members the chronological arrangement of the file. For example, in the first part of the file were all the applications, rejection letters, and the motivation letter from Oakbay, in that particular order. They had also put annexures responding to the outstanding questions that Members of the Committee had submitted last week, and had included other relevant documents at the end of the file. The reason for arranging it like this was because last time there had been an issue that they had different information, so they thought it would assist the Committee to have a chronological order of events in order for them to be able to find each other. That was the purpose of the file it had submitted, with new information under the list of outstanding questions, which was section 10 of the file.
Mr Ronald Steyn
The Chairperson administered the oath, and Mr Ronald Steyn took the oath.
Chairperson: Before we proceed with your input, I am going to ask you to confirm the statement that you made on 7 September 2018.
Mr Steyn: Yes, I confirm the statement.
Chairperson: Would you please read the statement to this Committee?
(Mr Steyn read the statement)
The point that he was making was that he had very good working relations with his superiors, meaning even the Ambassador who was in that office. At no point did Mr Steyn have a problem with anything, other than having to receive a letter and telephone call from Ms Mnyaka (Chief Director: DHA).
Mr Steyn: It was first a telephone call which I agreed to, and then I had to wait for the process to follow through and then I received my official transfer letter.
Chairperson: Was that normal practice that the deployment of yourselves into foreign offices had to be confirmed in such a manner -- that you are phoned or informed in such a manner? What is the rule that governs deployment of yourselves?
Mr Steyn: We get deployed for four years. New Delhi was a category three, so yes, I was deployed for four years to New Delhi. I wouldn’t know if it was normal procedure to receive a phone call.
Chairperson: It was for the first time?
Mr Steyn: It was for the first time that I know of.
Chairperson: How long have you worked in the Department?
Mr Steyn: 30 years.
Chairperson: In your 30 years have you experienced deployment that comes via telephone? What did you read out of the instruction that you must keep quiet?
Mr Steyn: I read that the process is still ongoing and to not inform other officials or to not let other officials know, because that would create rumours and stories about why you are being moved,etc.
Chairperson: What role had Ms Nomzamo Mnyaka in your day-to-day work?
Mr Steyn: She was a Chief Director for Foreign Office Coordination at the time. She was heading the foreign office coordination at Home Affairs in Pretoria.
Chairperson: Where was Mr Kobese?
Mr Steyn: Mr Kobese was a Director, so he was one level lower than her.
Chairperson: In your workings in New Delhi, have you had any engagements with Mr Kobese?
Mr Steyn: Yes, I did. I have received some emails from time to time regarding visas etc.
Chairperson: What emails? Can you be specific?
Mr Steyn: If there were visas that had to be priortised, he would maybe send us an email.
Chairperson: Was it a normal process, and why would such happen that a junior person would have to talk to you. Are you at the same level with him?
Mr Steyn: No, I am ASD level.
Chairperson: Meaning you are at a higher level.
Mr Steyn: No, he is at higher level.
Chairperson: So, he would give you instructions to prioritise certain visas?
Mr Steyn: He would basically request assistance for certain applications or if there was an application he felt should be priortised for some reason.
Chairperson: Give us one example of such priority visas.
Mr Steyn: It happens from time to time that IT technicians need to go down to South Africa where there is a breakdown or crash in some computer system, and if IT people in South Africa cannot fix it they will request somebody from the company in New Delhi to go down in an emergency to go fix the system.
Mr M Hoosen (DA): The suspicion that some of us have – well, I speak for myself in this case and possibly my colleagues might also have a similar suspicion, but they will speak when they get a chance. You were moved out of New Delhi to a different mission to make space for an official who would be a little more accommodating to the Gupta family, or to Mr Ashu Chawla. That is the suspicion that we have. Is there any information that you have regarding your move that confirms that suspicion? Is there anything that you know of what would be the reason behind your removal?
Mr Steyn: No, I am not aware of anything. Like I said, my working relationship at the High Commission in New Delhi with everyone was fine. I am not aware of any disciplinary matters or investigations against me at the time.
Mr Hoosen: I am not referring to any action or disciplinary hearing that was pending. Maybe I must explain again. We are suspicious about the sudden move of yourself from the New Delhi office to Munich, and we are trying to get to the bottom of that part. Perhaps -- maybe I am wrong -- but did you come across any information maybe after your move or before or from anybody in the Department that would have had a conversation with you or bought information to you or anything you would have come across, as to what the real reason for your move was?
Mr Steyn: No I didn’t come across any real information.
Mr Hoosen: During your term at the New Delhi mission, did you ever have any interaction, or hear of or meet or know of any other official in the Department that was providing assistance to a Mr Ashu Chawla?
Mr Steyn: No.
Mr Hoosen: Has he ever made contact with you or any other colleague from your department?
Mr Steyn: I had contact with Mr Chawla, but only via the letters that he signed.
Mr Hoosen: When was this?
Mr Steyn: It must be around about end of 2014.
Mr Hoosen: Can you recall what those letters were about?
Mr Steyn: The letters were normally attachments as part of the requirements for visa applications, where they applied for Infinity Media or Sahara, where he was the signatory at the bottom of the letter.
Mr Hoosen: Just explain that again. He sent you requests directly for visa applications?
Mr Steyn: No, part of the requirements for Section 11(2) is that there must be an invitation letter from the company in South Africa. So the letter from the company in South Africa would be signed by him.
Mr Hoosen: That was your only level of contact with him via emails?
Mr Steyn: I don’t think even by emails. I have maybe received one or two calls from him at some stage where he requested that visas be processed.
Mr Hoosen: He called you directly?
Mr Steyn:Yes, he called.
Mr Hoosen: Your cellphone, or office line?
Mr Steyn: To my office line.
Mr Hoosen: Was it only on two occasions that you had contact with him via telephone?
Mr Steyn: I won’t say two. I didn’t keep count of it, but I would say maybe in the two year period seven or eight times.
Mr Hoosen: Telephone calls?
Mr Steyn: Yes, telephone call and emails.
Mr Hoosen: A combination of telephone calls and emails?
Mr Steyn: Yes.
Mr Hoosen: From your recollection, each of those occasions it was related directly to visa applications?
Mr Steyn: Yes, it was only visa applications.
Mr Hoosen: And those applications were sitting with you for approval, or to be processed by you?
Mr Steyn: They were sitting with me for approval.
Mr Hoosen: Why do think that Mr Chawla would have contacted you directly? How did he come to know that you were dealing with these visa applications?
Mr Steyn: I was head of the section in New Delhi, so it was only me and a colleague. Being the head of the section,everyone would refer them to me.
Mr Hoosen: Of those seven or eight times roughly that he has contacted you, via email or cellphone, on each occasion it was only related to visa applications. Is that correct?
Mr Steyn: Yes, it was only visa applications.
Mr Hoosen: Roughly how many applications were there -- I get it that you might not have the exact figure?
Mr Steyn: I would say during the period maybe eight or ten.
Mr Hoosen: Of that ten or eight applications, can you recall whether you approved all of them, or if you declined them?
Mr Steyn: What would happen is, should they not meet the requirements, I would not approve them and would be in contact with him saying I need A, B, and C before I can approve this application. That was basically what it was.
Mr Hoosen: What was his response to that?
Mr Steyn: His response was that normally he would send me the letters or outstanding information or mail the documents to me.
Mr Hoosen: Were there any of the applications that you eventually declined?
Mr Steyn: No, I doubt if there were any that were declined.
Mr Hoosen: So he submitted the outstanding information and it was followed through at the end of the day?
Mr Steyn: Yes.
Mr Hoosen: Have you ever met with Mr Chawla?
Mr Steyn: No, I have never met him.
Mr Hoosen: Not at the mission or anywhere else?
Mr Steyn: No, nowhere.
Mr Hoosen: Would any of your colleagues have had meetings with him?
Mr Steyn: Colleagues in my office were only Ms Van Heerden at the time, and I doubt if she has met him. At the time, all applications came through VSS, and work permits had to be submitted in person. So unless he submitted the application for himself, then I would not have met him.
Mr Hoosen: So at the time you were there, applications were coming via VSS. Is that correct? And there were applications that we supplied directly to the embassy -- is that correct?
Mr Steyn: Yes.
Mr Hoosen: All of Mr Chawla’s applications were only directly with the embassy office?
Mr Steyn: I can’t recall that I have done work visas for him or that he submitted on behalf of Sahara or Infinity or anybody. Most came through VSS which is your port of entry visas, valid for a 90-day period.
Mr Hoosen: I am sorry, I do not understand. Please say that again.
Mr Steyn: I said, I can’t recall that he submitted any applications with me in person at the mission because the applications I dealt with, that I refer to, are port of entry visas that would be submitted via VSS.
Mr Hoosen: But you said earlier that he would have contacted you directly.
Mr Steyn: Meaning directly via phone or email, yes.
Mr Hoosen: He did then submit all his applications to the mission -- that is what I am asking.
Mr Steyn: No, the applications he would submit via VSS, but he would then call on behalf of the applicants.
Mr Hoosen: He was making interim inquiries on the applications?
Mr Steyn: Yes.
Chairperson: Meaning, he was not checking with VSS, where he lodged the application?
Mr Steyn: Yes, he came to me via mail or phone.
Chairperson: So, you would then respond on email?
Mr Steyn: Yes.
Chairperson: Was it a normal practice? You had appointed an agent that was dealing with the processing of visas, so why would people then have to come directly to you?
Mr Steyn: No, we would have travel agents as well, even individuals, and if there was a problem with the visa requirements we would get in touch with the person or companies advising them that there was outstanding information and we could not process it until such time that we received it.
Chairperson: How did you “save” Mr Chawla on your phone? What was he, to your understanding?
Mr Steyn: He was a representative of a company in South Africa.
Chairperson: Which company?
Mr Steyn: Sahara or Infinity Media.
Chairperson: So you then had this open communication with him?
Mr Steyn: Yes, it was normal. We had communication with other companies as well.
Mr Hoosen: Do you know any members of the Gupta family personally?
Mr Steyn: No.
Mr Hoosen: Would you have met with them?
Mr Steyn: No.
Mr Hoosen: Do you know whether they had a relationship with any one of your colleagues who was presiding in that office over the years you had been there? I gather you had been there for a while.
Mr Steyn: No, I had been in New Delhi for two years but no at that stage I didn’t even know about the Guptas. It only came out later about the Guptas.
Chairperson: How do you say you did not know then when you were dealing with Gupta companies?
Mr Steyn: Yes, but not in the way with the state capture, and everything else that is in the media.
Chairperson: We are not talking state capture. We are talking your knowledge. How do you know these people? You said you don’t know them -- you only knew them later -- but they were the owners of these companies.
Mr Steyn: You would know the owners, but you would not directly deal with them.
Chairperson: Did you know the companies were owned by the Guptas.
Mr Steyn: Yes, I did know.
Mr Hoosen: What exactly did you know?
Mr Steyn: I just knew that they were the supposed company directors and that they had a wedding and that is basically it.
Chairperson: Allow Mr Steyn to tell us about the wedding. Where were you when the wedding took place?
Mr Steyn: I was still in South Africa, luckily.
Chairperson: You wouldn’t know about the wedding?
Mr Steyn: I only know of the wedding which I read in the media, and the landing at the airport in South Africa.
Chairperson: At the level of your position -- 30 years’ experience at Home Affairs -- are you saying you relied on this information of people that landed at Waterkloof, and you never took an interest to know who these people were? Which office in South Africa were you at when they landed here?
Mr Steyn: I was in Mpumalanga at the provincial office in Nelspruit.
Mr Hoosen: You said earlier you have not met with any member of the Gupta family. Did any members of the Gupta family have a reputation at that office?
Mr Steyn: Yes, there were certain applications that were followed up by the High Commissioner sometimes, which were from the Gupta family or a company, for example, Sahara.
Mr Hoosen: What applications were those?
Mr Steyn: It was mostly section 11(2) short term work applications, and they would want applications priortised to take up to five working days.
Mr Hoosen: Just take us through the Section 11(2) short term visas.
Mr Steyn: It is for short time work in South Africa.
Mr Hoosen: And the High Commissioner would receive them?
Mr Steyn: No, they would come via VSS, but the High Commissioner would follow up on them and enquire from them how far the process was or how soon they could be processed.
Mr Hoosen: So the High Commissioner contacts you telephonically or calls you to his office and asks you the status of a specific application?
Mr Steyn: Yes, that is correct.
Mr Hoosen: In most cases where the High Commissioner would have been contacted, would have been applications from the Gupta family or associates or relatives or employees of the Gupta family?
Mr Steyn: No, there was Sahara and other big companies that were contacts of his that would enquire.
Mr Hoosen: I am referring to those applications of the Gupta family, be it employees of their companies --you understand my point right?
Mr Steyn: Yes.
Mr Hoosen: So when the High Commissioner would contact you in response to those ones in particular to find out what the status was, your impression would have been at that stage that somebody from the Gupta family or some relative or associate would have made contact with the High Commissioner. Is that correct?
Mr Steyn: Yes, that is correct.
Mr Hoosen: Remind me -- who was the High Commissioner at the time?
Mr Steyn: Mr France Morule.
Mr Hoosen: He would contact you and say I have had this query from so and so?
Mr Steyn: Yes.
Mr Hoosen: Did he at any stage tell you who he got the query from?
Mr Steyn: No, he would not. He would only mention it was from Sahara or Infinity Media.
Mr Hoosen: From your recollection, on how many occasions roughly would the High Commissioner have contacted you in that two year period?
Mr Steyn: Between 15 and 20 times -- not only on the Gupta matters, but in general for different companies.
Mr Hoosen: I am referring specifically to either Sahara or Infinity, or any other application related to the Gupta family.
Mr Steyn: I would say round about ten.
Mr Hoosen: And you said earlier Mr Chawla would have contacted you eight or so times?
Mr Steyn: Yes.
Mr Hoosen: I take it that there would have been separate cases. There wouldn’t have been a duplication where the High Commissioner would contact you about the same application from Mr Chawla?
Mr Steyn: It did happen sometimes that the High Commissioner would contact me, and then Mr Chawla would send an email.
Mr Hoosen: Can you remember those cases in particular?
Mr Steyn: No, unfortunately not.
Chairperson: You are a very experienced person, but you can’t remember anything about those cases? I know you come from a briefing. You are prepared. These are some of the things that your colleagues have done before. This is serious. The 30 years you have served in the Department with diligence and discipline will just go down the drain if you do not share the truth. The question asked is, what were these cases? Don’t say you don’t remember, because that has been the strategy -- “no I don’t remember, I don’t know how I sent this email” throughout this inquiry. Don’t fall into that trap.
Mr Steyn: The cases I have dealt with were mostly section 11(2), where Mr Chawla or the High Commissioner would request some progress reports for Sahara and Infinity Media.
Chairperson: During the launch and construction of Infinity Media, that is when a lot of these applications were happening. Were you still in New Delhi?
Mr Steyn: Not ANN7, I was not in New Delhi. No.
Chairperson: Which one that you know?
Mr Steyn: I know about Infinity Media and Sahara.
Mr Hoosen: I take it that you would have done your very best to make sure that as a representative of Home Affairs, you would assist applicants that want to apply for permits to get to South Africa and in doing so, you would have probably gone above the call of duty to assist them? I am trying to ascertain the type of employee you were. We had Mr Christians before, who went into great detail as to what extent he would go to try and assist people to get permits to come into South Africa. Mr Kobese was also here and went into great detail about the things he did to try and assist people to get permits into South Africa. Did you share the same kind of work ethic?
Mr Steyn: Yes, our mandate is to adjudicate the permit applications. So applications would be submitted in person and would be checked, and if they were not complete, they would not be taken in. Only once it is complete would it be taken in and land on my desk for adjudication. I would again check it and make follow up on certain documents, should there be a concern. Yes, in going to great lengths I am guided by the Immigration Act and policies, and I have adjudicated applications according to that.
Mr Hoosen: Do you recall any applications you approved that did not conform 100% to processes?
Mr Steyn: No, I don’t know about any.
Mr Hoosen: Where you ever asked by anybody, including the High Commissioner or any other senior staff member that you may report to, to process an application where you knew that those applications were not conforming to the regulations in their entirety?
Mr Steyn: The applications that did not conform to the requirements would be returned.
Mr Hoosen: My question to you is, have you ever had an experience where any senior person that you report to in the Department -- the High Commissioner or any other government employee -- would have approached you to approve an application although you would have been well aware that the application did not conform?
Mr Steyn: No.
Mr Hoosen: You were aware that you were coming to this Committee at some point?
Mr Steyn: Yes, that is correct.
Mr Hoosen: When did you first become aware?
Mr Steyn: On 7 September 2018.
Mr Hoosen: Since then, have there been any colleagues that you have been in contact with that have given you any briefing on what needed to be said here, and how you need to deal with the questions?
Mr Steyn: No, I have had no briefing.
Mr Hoosen: Everybody from Home Affairs sitting here today will be surprised to see you here?
Mr Steyn: I don’t think they will be surprised, because my name was on the list that was circulated to report here, so they would have seen my name on the list.
Mr Hoosen: Who is “they”?
Mr Steyn: It would be Mr McKay, Mr Kobese and other Home Affairs officials.
Mr Hoosen: Have you had any discussions with them prior to coming here, or any contact whatsoever?
Mr Steyn: Yes, we did.
Mr Hoosen: Tell us about that.
Mr Steyn: It was basically regarding whether it would be difficult. What happens? Is it stressful? But not in any detail.
Chairperson: I know you had meeting to prepare for this. I know last night you met to prepare for this meeting. I know. When you deal with us, you are not dealing with old Members of Parliament. We know. The point that we trying to understand is that collectively you have met and developed a strategy to come and appear before this committee.
Mr Steyn: I was not at the meeting last night.
Chairperson: Do you know that there was a meeting last night?
Mr Steyn: No, I did not know that.
Mr Hoosen: Tell us about the stress problem you were talking about? I did not get it, because you were talking between myself and the Chairperson.
Mr Steyn: No, I won’t say it was a stress problem. They were being stressed to come and present here before the Portfolio Committee.
Mr Hoosen: You were a bit nervous?
Mr Steyn: Yes.
Mr Hoosen: You said this to who?
Mr Steyn: To Ms Charlotte Mocke and to Ms Patel in casual conversation in the office.
Mr Hoosen: You just walked up to them and said, I am stressed about coming to the Portfolio Committee?
Mr Steyn: Yes, we were smoking outside, and the subject came up.
Chairperson: In your 30 years’ experience working for the Department, is this the first time you have come to Parliament?
Mr Steyn: That is correct.
Mr Hoosen: Has there been anyone in the Department, prior to your coming here, that had asked you to say or not say certain things? You can take your time to answer that question, because if it comes up later on then I am sure you understand the consequences of that.
Mr Steyn: There was nobody who briefed me on anything, to say something or not say something.
Mr A Figlan (DA): Can you provide us with the email copies of the communication with Mr Chawla?
Mr Steyn: Unfortunately not. Those emails were sent when I was still in New Delhi. If Information Technology (IT) has access to the email address at that time, I am sure it might be possible to recover them, but I don’t have them.
Mr Figlan: We have got the acting DG next to you. Maybe he might be able to get them.
Chairperson: Don’t call him now. Just note the point that we may want those emails to come. So that is the communication you have had with Mr Chawla?
Mr Steyn: Yes.
Chairperson: So your colleagues have confirmed in fact that they have been doing the same thing, to the extent that they even shared with him very serious information of the state with Mr Chawla. You are operating by the book. You were straight and you were dealing with these things. Applications that did not comply, you rejected. Right?
Mr Steyn: That is correct.
Chairperson: That is why you ended up going to Munich. I put it to you that that is why you ended up going to Munich -- because you are working by the book?
Mr Steyn: It is possible.
Chairperson: The reality that we are dealing with here is that Infinity Media, together with Sahara, were using fraudulent applications. It is on record -- we have an affidavit for that. Do you know a man called Mr Sundaram?
Mr Steyn: No.
Chairperson: If you process these applications, you will come to know him. Is it not you that he applied to help the media to come and sort out ANN7? You were not there?
Mr Steyn: No, I was not there with ANN7.
Chairperson: Have you looked at this affidavit?
Mr Steyn: No.
Chairperson: Has the Department shown you his affidavit?
Mr Steyn: No.
Chairperson: You don’t know anything about it?
Mr Steyn: I don’t know that affidavit.
Mr Figlan: Prior to your deployment to New Delhi, was there any misunderstanding in the position you were holding before they sent you to India?
Mr Steyn: Are you referring to the position in New Delhi and the one in Munich?
Mr Figlan: Yes.
Mr Steyn: No, not that I know of.
Mr Figlan: I see you have been communicating with Mr Chawla as a director. Have you ever met him personally?
Mr Steyn: No, I have never met him personally.
Mr Figlan: You don’t know him facially?
Mr Steyn: No.
Mr Figlan: I believe you say you don’t have any knowledge of the Guptas, except what you hear from the media and all that stuff. When you were in New Delhi for those two years in 2014 and 2015, you never knew anything about the Guptas? They never visited the office or talked to the High Commissioner?
Mr Steyn: They never visited my office, no.
Mr Figlan: You just know them through the media?
Mr Steyn: I just know them through the media.
Mr Figlan: You don’t have a photo of them?
Mr Steyn: No, I don’t have a photo of them.
Mr Figlan: Really?
Mr Steyn: No.
Mr Figlan: Do you see them on the media?
Mr Steyn: Yes, I do see them on the media.
Mr Figlan: But you were never curious and kept a photo for yourself?
Mr Steyn: No.
Mr Figlan: Before your deployment, I believe you had a telephone conversation with somebody who is in a higher position. Did they mention why they wanted you to move to another office?
Mr Steyn: No, there was no mention of any reason why I was being moved.
Mr Figlan: Do you still have the letter of appointment?
Mr Steyn: Yes.
Mr Figlan: Can we also have a copy?
Chairperson: We have the letter in the file.
Mr Figlan: You say you wereback in South Africa. When did you come back?
Mr Steyn: I came back on 30 June this year.
Mr Figlan: No further questions.
Chairperson: Did you finish your term in Munich?
Mr Steyn: Yes, I finished my term in Munich with three months extension.
Chairperson: When you went to New Delhi did you submit your CV to anyone either than the Department? Where were you before you went to New Delhi?
Mr Steyn: I was in Nelspruit at the provincial manager’s office in Home Affairs.
Chairperson: How did it come about that you are now deployed to New Delhi? How did it happen?
Mr Steyn: I applied for a position. The position was advertised, and I applied for it. I went through the shortlisting and interview process, and then I was successful.
Chairperson: So the same thing happened for Mr Christians?
Mr Steyn: I do’t know how Mr Christians applied, r the process that was followed to post him there.
Chairperson: But when you left New Delhi for Munich, did you know of anything with regard to the human resource process that must be followed? Did you know who was going to replace you?
Mr Steyn: I’ve only seen in a letter that it would be Mr Christians who would be replacing me.
Chairperson: Who sent you the letter?
Mr Steyn: The letter was sent by Ms Nomzamo Mnyaka, the then Chief Director: Foreign Office Coordination. It was dated 14 April 2016. It is a letter that was sent to the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) human resources (HR) people.
(He read the letter)
Chairperson: You went through an interview. The position was advertised. That is the normal process?
Mr Steyn: Yes.
Chairperson: That is your knowledge of how the system works -- it gets advertised?
Mr Steyn: Yes, that is correct.
Chairperson: Is that an internal process?
Mr Steyn: Internal, yes.
Chairperson: You are then allowed to apply? Anyone is allowed to apply?
Mr Steyn: That is correct.
Chairperson: How many people applied for that position?
Mr Steyn: For the New Delhi position?
Mr Steyn: I wouldn’t know. HR would have to tell us that.
Chairperson: Okay, you were then short-listed. Who informed you that you were short-listed to go to New Delhi?
Mr Steyn: It was the recruitment section at head office.
Chairperson: Do you have a reference document of that engagement?
Mr Steyn: No, I do not have.
Chairperson: You were then informed to go to New Delhi by that letter.
Mr Steyn: No, this letter is the letter to go to Munich.
Chairperson: The letter to go to New Delhi?
Mr Steyn: Yes, I have a letter of transfer to the new mission in New Delhi.
Chairperson: Can you make it available? Who signed that letter?
Mr Steyn: This letter was signed on behalf of the DG.
Chairperson: By who.
Mr Steyn: I can’t see it.
Chairperson: Can you give us a copy of the letter? We want to make copies. You don’t know who signed this letter, you only know that it comes from the DG? Is that how things are normally done in the Department?
Mr Steyn: I wouldn’t know.
Chairperson: Remember that in Mr Apleni’s presentation, he said he had delegated this responsibility to a number of people that signed off on his behalf. So you don’t know who signed this letter?
Mr Steyn: No, I don’t recognise the signature, and there is no printed name.
Chairperson: There is no printed name -- it is just the signature without the name? We will make copies available of this letter.
Mr Figlan: I have asked this question to Mr Steyn -- did he ever refuse any permit from Mr Chawla or the Guptas or their companies before he was transferred?
Chairperson: Which were not in line with the regulations.
Mr Steyn: Yes, there definitely were. I cannot recall if it was for the Gupta companies, but yes, I did refuse or reject certain applications.
Mr Figlan: More or less how many?
Mr Steyn: 10 per month – say, 160 to 200.
Chairperson: So you rejected applications that were non-compliant?
Mr Steyn: That is correct.
Chairperson: So you stick by the law? You stick by the regulations? That is you. 30 years experience.
Mr Steyn: Thank you.
Chairperson: No, but this is what you did.
Mr Steyn: Yes.
Chairperson: You did not allow any shenanigans that came through without following proper procedures? You were very strict? You put your foot down?
Mr Steyn: That is correct. In certain cases, if we dealt with a fraudulent letter, we would even follow up with the company in South Africa to determine if it was actually fraudulent and that application would be rejected.
Chairperson: That is Mr Steyn for you. Good work you are doing for the country.
Mr Steyn: Thank you.
Ms T Kenye (ANC): Having spent 30 years in the Department, didn’t you have any urge to want to know why you were transferred? I understand that in your statement you didn’t ask anything. That is funny to me, because when I read the sentence that says you were contacted telephonically by the Chief Director, Ms Mnyaka, she was asking if you were prepared to go but at the same time you were saying that you had been short-listed. Why were you short-listed if you were prepared to go?
Mr Steyn: For the transfer from New Delhi to Munich, we did not go through the advertising of the post, and the short-listing and interview process. As you said, it was just a choice. Yes, I did not have an urge to enquire why, and the reason for that was that I had been in New Delhi for two years it is a difficult posting. The city is polluted. It is dirty, so your quality of life is not that good. If any person had the choice to go from New Delhi to Munich, I think it would be positive to go because you cannot compare the two cities. That is the reason I didn’t really feel the urge to enquire why -- I was just happy to say yes, I will go to Munich.
Ms Kenye: According to Mr Kobese, you had a bad relationship with the head of mission. Is this not true?
Mr Steyn: I am not aware of any bad relationship with other officials in the mission or with the High Commissioner at any stage, and that is what I said in my statement. It was not brought to my attention, or anything.
Ms Kenye: In my understanding if somebody calls you telephonically, you have a lot of choices and are given space to ask the reason why. But you didn’t ask the reason -- you were just prepared to go. Do you think that is really true?
Mr Steyn: At that stage, like I said, I did not have the urge because I was going to a better place. I was not concerned about why.
Chairperson: With your understanding, when you look back and now you know what this inquiry is all about, can you confirm now, from where you are sitting, there was in fact a problem? You were not aware because you were applying the law, but you were stepping on other people’s toes by not wanting to agree with those applications.
Mr Steyn: Yes, at that time, like I said, I didn’t have the urge to find out, but looking back now it makes sense as to why I was moved.
Ms B Dambuza (ANC): It is a pity that we are going to go around the same question because we want the truth. Mr Steyn, are you denying that there was a problem between you and the head of mission in New Delhi? I want you to say so now. Are you denying that there was a problem?
Mr Steyn: Yes, I am denying. If there was, it was never brought to my attention. There is nothing on record that I have got.
Ms Dambuza: Are you saying there has never been an attempt to intervene on your strained relationship, and there has never been an intervention regarding your conduct in New Delhi? I am going to tell you why I am asking these questions several times.
Mr Steyn: No, like I said, not that I am aware of. I have not received any emails or any communication.
Ms Dambuza: Not even the human resource unit contacted you to advise you about this? You have a serious allegation here before this Portfolio Committee in terms of your conduct. Don’t take it easy. You have a serious allegation here by the senior officials of this Department. I am talking about the DG, who told this inquiry that you had bad relationships. He got a report from your supervisors. So I want to know now from you if not even one of your supervisors talked to you about your conduct and tried to intervene to correct your conduct?
Mr Steyn: No, there was nobody that talked to me. There was nobody who intervened.
Ms Dambuza: Okay. I want you to explain to us, because we are not working in the Department, what you mean by short-term work in the visa requirements?
Mr Steyn: A short term work visa, or the section 11(2), is where a foreigner would come into the country to come and perform short term work for up to 90 days.
Ms Dambuza: But what is it? It has got a name. If it is plumbing, it’s plumbing, but it should have a name.
Mr Steyn: It can be for any category of work.
Ms Dambuza: Give us an example.
Mr Steyn: An example would be in IT, where it could be a programmer, or pipe fitters or specialised welding people.
Ms Dambuza: You may not have it now, but we need it in terms of the requirements. I am sure it is stipulated -- you cannot just take it for granted, it must be stipulated. We are not children. How long did it take to process your transfer and your security clearance?
Mr Steyn: We finished our security clearance training at the end of November 2013, and I was posted out on 6 April 2014. So, you can say six months.
Ms Dambuza: You first get trained. Who is facilitating that process?
Mr Steyn: That would be the foreign office coordination section in head office.
Ms Dambuza: Who is the person who facilitated yours?
Mr Steyn: I cannot recall if there was any specific person. It was just given to the foreign office coordination section, and they would then process it via security.
Ms Dambuza: I think we can get the person who was responsible for that facilitation at that time. We need clarity on the process. There is an agent here, and we need to know the role of the agent in processing the visa applications. What is the role? Where does the official in your status come in? What is the role?
Chairperson: In your 30 years’ experience working for the Department, have you ever appeared before any disciplinary committee?
Mr Steyn: Yes, I did.
Chairperson: For what reason, and when was that?
Mr Steyn: It was in 1999.
Chairperson: For what reason?
Mr Steyn: It was taking in an application that would not meet the requirements, if I remember correctly.
Chairperson: What was the outcome of that briefing?
Mr Steyn: It was a written warning.
Chairperson: After 1999 to date, have you appeared before any other disciplinary committee?
Mr Steyn: Nothing.
Chairperson: Do you know Mr Kobese?
Mr Steyn: Yes, I know him.
Chairperson: Have you spoken to him?
Mr Steyn: I have greeted him this morning and I have spoken to him previously, yes.
Chairperson: With work related matters, do you engage with him? When you were deployed in New Delhi, did you talk to him about your work and performance?
Mr Steyn: Yes, I did.
Chairperson: What would you be talking about?
Mr Steyn: It would be on progress, on the processing of applications, processing times, etc.
Chairperson: Has he ever raised a concern about your performance?
Mr Steyn: No, not that I am aware of.
Chairperson: Has he ever raised with you that the High Commissioner has a problem with you?
Mr Steyn: No.
Chairperson: Has anyone in the Department written to you to inform you that you are having problems in India?
Mr Steyn: No, I have not received anything written in emails or verbal.
Chairperson: When you hear from this Committee today that there is an allegation you were very problematic, what do you say?
Mr Steyn: I am surprised.
Chairperson: What do you say?
Mr Steyn: I can’t believe it. I don’t think I was a problem.
Chairperson: Have you given your CV to the Guptas?
Mr Steyn: No, I have not.
Chairperson: Have you had tea with them?
Mr Steyn: No, I have not had tea with them.
Chairperson: Have you facilitated any business deals when you were in India on behalf of the Guptas?
Mr Steyn: No, I have not.
Ms H Mkhaliphi (EFF): Did you finish your term in Munich?
Mr Steyn: Yes, I did finish my term.
Ms Mkhaliphi: What is a term? Is it not four years?
Mr Steyn: My initial term when I was posted out was four years. After two years I was sent to Munich. It was only for the remainder of my term, which was two years.
Ms Mkhaliphi: Which means you combined New Delhi and Munich?
Mr Steyn: Yes, two and two, which will give you the four years.
Chairperson: Was there anyone in Munich when you got to Munich?
Mr Steyn: No, there was nobody there.
Chairperson: So, you had to go and finish your two years, so you cleared up for Mr Christians to move to New Delhi? For you it is good, it is a good condition, the environment is okay, the pollution, the noise the dirtiness, it is clean and you are happy?
Mr Steyn: Yes.
Chairperson: But you have to go and finish up your two years?
Mr Steyn: It could be a possibility. I don’t know the reason why I was sent.
Chairperson: But you were just happy that you had moved.
Mr Steyn: Yes, I was happy.
Chairperson: Did anyone from human resources talk to you about your conduct in the office?
Mr Steyn: Nobody.
Chairperson: Has the Director General ever spoken to you?
Mr Steyn: No.
Chairperson: Because these positions are at the level of a Minister. At any point, has the Minister spoken to you about your deployment or any of the problems that you caused in India?
Mr Steyn: No.
Ms Mkhaliphi: When you received the phone call from Ms Mnyaka, she told you to keep quiet because it was still being processed. You were not worried, because you knew the processes -- you had been in the Department for 30 years. If a person who is supposed to be professional in your Department says to you just keep quiet, don’t talk about it, you were not worried about what kind of phone call this was from the Chief Director?
Mr Steyn: I suppose I was a bit worried, but like I said earlier, the reason why I kept quiet was because she requested me to and because a lot of people were interested in those positions and would want to know why.
Ms Mkhaliphi: So can we conclude in this inquiry here that you were not acting as a professional in the Department, with your experience of 30 years?
Mr Steyn: Because I did not enquire about the reasons?
Ms Mkhaliphi: You got a phone call. It was supposed to be a professional phone call between you and your supervisor, and in the very same call she is telling you to keep quiet. You don’t even use your ethics as a person who has been there for 30 years to question that. Shall we conclude you were a compromised person in the Department?
Mr Steyn: No, I don’t think so, because she said there was still a process. That was just verbal, and I would still receive the formal letter at a later stage.
Chairperson: How long did it take from that telephone call to the formal process?
Mr Steyn: It was about three or four months.
Chairperson: Do you have a date of the telephone call that was made?
Mr Steyn: I don’t have the exact date.
Chairperson: Could you find it if you were asked to look for that date?
Mr Steyn: It would be between the end of August and the beginning of September 2015.
Chairperson: She was calling you from where? She was in South Africa?
Mr Steyn: Yes, she was in South Africa.
Chairperson: Using the Department’s telephone line?
Mr Steyn: I suppose so.
Chairperson: You were in India when you received this call?
Mr Steyn: Yes.
Chairperson: During working hours?
Mr Steyn: Yes.
Chairperson: The call that said you were being deployed to Munich, and you were just excited based on what we said earlier? The point Ms Mkhaliphi is making is that you were not worried when such a deployment took place. Was it a practice that officers would be deployed in this manner?
Mr Steyn: I don’t know. I don’t think it would be common practice, but yes, I was not concerned.
Ms Mkhaliphi: How long had you been in New Delhi before you moved to Munich?
Mr Steyn: I was there for two years and one month.
Ms Mkhaliphi: You are telling us you were not consulted because it was going to be a better opportunity to move from New Delhi to Munich. Why would you say that?
Mr Steyn: The reason I would say that is just the difference in the quality of life between Munich and New Delhi. It is totally different.
Ms Mkhaliphi: Did you watch your previous colleagues from the Department who were here in the inquiry that you are also undergoing now?
Mr Steyn: I watched certain parts.
Ms Mkhaliphi: Did you watch Mr Kobese when he was testifying here?
Mr Steyn: Yes, I did.
Ms Mkhaliphi: Did you see him when he said the reason you were moved from New Delhi to Munich was because there were some queries between you and the head of mission.
Mr Steyn: That is correct. I watched it.
Ms Mkhaliphi: Did you find out from him what happened?
Mr Steyn: No, I did not.
Ms Mkhaliphi: Why? You have been telling us of your good track record with the Department, which does not suggest that you have been having a bad relationship with your employer. But you watch him telling the nation and the Portfolio Committee in the form of an inquiry, saying the reason why you were moved was because there was fight between yourself and the head of mission. After you have watched him say that under oath, you didn’t ask him directly or through the DG? Why?
Mr Steyn: No, I did not.
Ms Mkhaliphi: Why?
Mr Steyn: I don’t have any reason why I didn’t ask him.
Chairperson: Did you take it seriously?
Mr Steyn: Yes, I took it seriously and I was a bit disappointed in what was said.
Chairperson: The question Ms Mkhaliphi is asking is, what did you do? Were you like, okay its fine he has said that in Parliament about me, but I will get him as well and get a chance to explain to Parliament? What was the attitude?
Mr Steyn: Yes, at that stage I didn’t feel that I would confront him with that.
Chairperson: So, what are you going to do?
Mr Steyn: I am sure that after this investigation it will come out.
Mr Hoosen: So you did watch what Mr Kobese said?
Mr Steyn: Yes.
Mr Hoosen: And clearly he lied to us as far as you are concerned?
Mr Steyn: Yes, as far as I am concerned, yes he lied, because I was not aware of any investigations. It was not brought to my attention at any stage.
Mr Hoosen: Earlier you mentioned the number of applications that were rejected, and you put it at 200-odd. Were any of those applications from Sahara Computers or Infinity Media, or directly related to Mr Chawla’s interventions with you?
Mr Steyn: It is very difficult to say, as I cannot recall all the applications. I would not know. I would have to check the applications.
Chairperson: Do you normally have a register of rejections?
Mr Steyn: There is no register, but it will be on the visa system.
Chairperson: The visa company does the work, and people pay lot of money to this company. Mr Chawla would then apply via that company?
Mr Steyn: Yes, the applicants would submit the applications at VSS.
Chairperson: VSS would then send them to you?
Mr Steyn: Yes, every day a courier comes on a daily basis.
Chairperson: What do they do -- what is their role?
Mr Steyn: They would take the application in and see that it is complete. They would quickly scrutinise and see that it is complete.
Chairperson: So why, when it comes to you is it not complete and then gets rejected? What does it mean? You have this company that makes so much money -- it processes these applications to the extent that it sends them to the Department, meaning they are now satisfied with the information in the application forms, and now require the Department to sit on it. Then the Department says no -- this does not conform. What does it mean? You have this entity that they speak so much about, that is doing so much, is world class standard, and you can reject more than 200 applications at a go. What does it mean?
Mr Steyn: Applications that would most likely be rejected would be because there was fraudulent documentation attached -- bank statements and invitation letters, etc.
Chairperson: So this company does not do that verification?
Mr Steyn: No, they would not.
Chairperson: They just take everything that comes and send it to Home Affairs, like a courier?
Mr Steyn: They would not investigate the supporting documents.
Chairperson: That is my point. You have this entity that is making billions of rands on behalf of this government, and then it does not do due diligence on the information that is submitted. The Department must then spend time to process and reject, which led you to being removed because you were not approving fraudulent applications. That is the reason why you were removed. I am not making a conclusion, but let us proceed.
Mr Hoosen: I understand it is not possible for you to remember every rejected application. Of the 200-odd, can you remember any one of them? Would they belong to which companies?
Mr Steyn: They would mostly be for applications that came via travel agents. Companies -- it is difficult.
Mr Hoosen: You mentioned some other company -- HCL, what was it?
Mr Steyn: It would be HCL, Mahindra, Tata. It would probably be from the big companies.
Mr Hoosen: But you can’t recall if there were any linked to Infinity or any one of the Gupta companies?
Mr Steyn: No, unfortunately not.
Mr Hoosen: Is it possible that none of them were rejected, because if they did not meet the requirements they would be contacted with regard to the outstanding documents and requested to submit those documents.
Chairperson: Who would contactthem?
Mr Steyn: I would contact them.
Chairperson: How do you do that when you have an entity outside that is employed to do these things? How is it that you must then call these companies again? They make an application via an agent when there is no compliance with documentation, and you must then call them? How do you do that?
Mr Steyn: We call them because on the supporting documents there would be phone numbers. So we would have access to that.
Mr Hoosen: You would contact them to get the outstanding documents in order to proceed with the application?
Mr Steyn: Yes, that is correct.
Mr Hoosen: Which is what you would have done for Mr Chawla?
Mr Steyn: For all the companies, yes.
Mr Hoosen: From everything that you have said to us and from what I have picked up -- and I am referring now to only those applications directly related to Infinity Media or Sahara Computers, or any other entity belonging to the Guptas -- the only people who made interventions to you directly with regard to any applications from those companies would be either the High Commissioner or Mr Chawla or Mr Kobese, is that correct?
Mr Steyn: Yes, that is correct.
Mr Hoosen: With regards to those applications from Mr Kobese, can you tell us about the interventions that were made to you from him?
Mr Steyn: They would be very similar. I would receive an email from Mr Kobese regarding the progress with regard to applications -- when they would be finalised and a request to speed up the process or give it priority to be finalised before a certain date.
Mr Hoosen: Are you speaking generally, or specifically to an application that you recall?
Mr Steyn: Referring to Sahara or Infinity Media, but not to any specific person’s application.
Mr Hoosen: Apart from those three individuals I referred to earlier -- the High Commissioner, Mr Chawla, and Mr Kobese -- were there any other staff members from Home Affairs that would have made contact with you about specific applications related to those companies?
Mr Steyn: No.
Mr Hoosen: Would it only have been those three?
Mr Steyn: Yes.
Chairperson: The companies you make mention of include a number of companies that have invested in South Africa. You spoke about Tata. Who is the person that would have spoken to you about applications?
Mr Steyn: No, I can’t recall the names.
Chairperson: Mr Chawla, you know Mr Chawla. How do you know him? Give me the name of one of the persons of any of the companies that you know that spoke to you.
Mr Steyn: I cannot recall their names.
Chairperson: How do you know Mr Chawla?
Mr Steyn: I know Mr Chawla because of the previous hearing that was here, and his name came up every time.
Chairperson: But you had his number. You were talking to him, you were calling him, he was sharing information with you, he wanted you to intervene. Now you have just heard from this Committee, no.
Mr Steyn: That as well.
Chairperson: What is as well?
Mr Steyn: I knew from the letters that he signed.
Chairperson: Exactly, don’t use this Committee for knowing the relationship between you and Mr Chawla. This Committee just started this inquiry last week, alright. So, you have known Mr Chawla from years back?
Mr Steyn: Yes.
Chairperson: So don’t use this Committee and say that it was because his name was mentioned here. You know him because he was talking to you. He was asking you to help him quickly and somehow you agreed and somehow you refused. That is what you are doing there. So with these other companies, you do not know anyone that you have helped the way you have been helping Mr Chawla?
Mr Steyn: No, I cannot recall the names.
Mr Hoosen: That point is particularly important, Mr Steyn, because you have dealt with thousands of applications but you remember very clearly the one representative of the Gupta family, which is Mr Chawla. But you do not recall any of the other travel agents or immigration agents but you remember Mr Chawla. When I asked you earlier what was the reputation of the Gupta family in the High Commission, wouldn’t you agree that they had a direct link to senior people at the embassy in New Delhi. Isn’t that true?
Mr Steyn: Yes, that I can agree with.
Chairperson: Yes, because you were called by the Ambassador to intervene especially when it involved issues of Sahara Computers, right?
Mr Steyn: Yes.
Chairperson: The Ambassador would call you and say, what is happening with this particular application, right?
Mr Steyn: That is correct.
Mr Hoosen: So the impression that you got is that when it came to applications from Sahara and Infinity and Mr Chawla, you needed to process them as quickly as possible?
Mr Steyn: Yes, that is what happened with all the applications -- they would be processed as quickly as possible.
Mr Hoosen: You were aware if you didn’t do that you would get a call from either Mr Chawla or the High Commissioner, right?
Mr Steyn: Yes, that is correct.
Mr Hoosen: And Mr Kobese?
Mr Steyn: Yes.
Mr Hoosen: Is that the way you would operate with all of the applications?
Mr Steyn: We also for other big companies like Mahindra, Tata, HCL etc. We would also get requests for priority treatment from other companies as well.
Mr Hoosen: I accept that, and that you had tried to priortise applications generally, but given that you knew quite well that if you didn’t process an application from a Gupta-related company, you were going to get a call from either the High Commissioner, Mr Kobese or Mr Chawla. You generally operated to make sure that these applications were turned around quickly? Is that correct?
Mr Steyn: Yes, that is correct.
Mr Hoosen: On that basis, you would agree that they would have received preferential treatment in comparison to the other companies?
Mr Steyn: Yes, I agree.
Chairperson: Has the High Commissioner asked you about other applications, other than the Gupta companies?
Mr Steyn: It is possible, but I do not recall.
Chairperson: You are under oath here. You are not going to play with words. Go straight to the point. Has he ever contacted you about any of the companies other than Sahara? You can’t recall? You want us to give you chance to go and think? We can give you a chance to go and think and come back. We can even give you a chance to go and write it and then give us a statement on that so that you recall properly. Mr Kobese had said you were causing problems in New Delhi. You were not cooperating, and you were stopping investments. The Gupta family wanted to move people to the country and you were not cooperating. We know -- there is an affidavit that tells us how they were fraudulently breaking the law. From the launch of ANN7, Infinity Media and others, we know how they were bringing fraudulent people into the country. Those were involved were breaking the law, the immigration law. They were bringing people to come and work here with holiday visa permits. They would bring them here with inter-company transfer visas when they were not working for any company in India, because they did not have a company in India. They were using a particular company in India. These things were happening in front of you. While you were deployed and you saw them, you put your foot down that you did not agree. What can you tell us now that we have come to the conclusion of this inquiry now with you? What can you tell us now, having heard the questions and knowing what your colleagues have said about you?
Mr Steyn: I am being guided by the Immigration Act, the regulations and policies, and that is how I conduct my work. I was not aware of any problems. I have never been contacted via email or even verbally that I was a problem. If that was the case, it was never shared with me. The reason for me being moved is for the Department to tell why I was moved.
Chairperson: So you are saying someone lied to this Parliament? It is clear that someone lied?
Mr Steyn: Yes.
Ms Kenye: Don’t you think you were compromising the Department of Home Affairs and the Republic of South Africa when there were applications with Sahara letterheads? Why did you sign off?
Mr Steyn: The visas that I granted all met the requirements, and if they had had letters without names I would not have approved them.
Chairperson: Are you in a position to give us a report on the kind of visas you rejected?
Mr Steyn: Yes, it is possible.
Chairperson: I ask you to do that within seven working days.
Mr D Gumede (ANC): I want to request we invite Ms Mnyaka.
Chairperson: We will deal with that, but let’s note it because she was the first person that communicated the removal of Mr Steyn. We will sit and evaluate that part.
Ms Mkhaliphi: Mr Steyn, have you met Mr Chawla?
Mr Steyn: No, I have not met him.
Chairperson: Questions will come repeating themselves, and your responsiblity is to answer them. We are trying to get the truth.
Mr Gumede: When responding to a question, where you thought there was something amiss with your transfer from New Delhi to Munich, you said at that time you did not have any suspicion but now in retrospect you had your suspicions. Can you perhaps give us your suspicions?
Mr Steyn: In retrospect, it seems I was moved to make space for Mr Christians to go back to India.
Mr Gumede: To make space perhaps for what?
Mr Steyn: No, I don’t know. I was in that position, and they wanted him back there for some reason I was not aware of at the time.
Mr Gumede: You hadn’t finished the term you started in 2014, and were asked to leave in 2016, but you did not know what those suspicions were?
Mr Steyn: If I had to be redeployed to another mission and Mr Christians would go to India because he was there previously, the Department would have to respond to that.
Chairperson: Have you met Mr Christians before.
Mr Steyn: I met Mr Christians only during the handover week before I left New Delhi.
Chairperson: Thank you for your time. You have really helped this Committee to come to some conclusion on this matter. We are happy that you stood your ground on things that you believed were not in line with the regulations and the law. Where is your family? Is your family back here?
Mr Steyn: Yes, my family is back.
Chairperson: The stress level has gone down?
Mr Steyn: Yes.
Chairperson: We then request you to give us in writing the applications you have rejected within seven days. When you leave here, don’t go and fight with Mr Kobese. We are still going to have him under oath again, so I am going to suggest you should not go far. You will have to be around here because I may have to call you again when Mr Kobese is on the stand to verify certain things.
Mr Major Kobese
Chairperson: We have to proceed with Mr Kobese. Again, as we agreed at our last engagement, we may have to call him back for further clarity, and I don't want to dwell too much on Mr Steyn. I take it that Mr Steyn has made his statement, and we know Mr Kobese's position regarding Mr Steyn. It is on record what he said and what Mr Steyn said. It is a process which we are still going to get other people to speak about. I don't want us to get to a situation of “he said this and I said that.” It is not the intention of the Committee. Ours is to cross-examine and get the truth, and nothing else, from those who appear before us, and if anyone has misled Parliament it will make its own judgments and recommendations on how the matter should be dealt with. So, Mr Kobese, welcome back again. The last time we dealt with you, you said what we are dealing with is what we get and what we see. Now, we have to engage you further today. We will want you under oath again.
The Chairperson administered the oath, and Mr Major Kobese took the oath.
Chairperson: This is a follow up on matters that we want more clarity on. We are going to expect you to respond. Some of the questions will require having to go back to the submission made between yourself, Mr McKay and Ms Charlotte Mocke regarding Mr Steyn's redeployment. This submission was very key to the redeployment of Mr Steyn, and we are going to make you read it for us and from there we will have to get an understanding of the submission.
Mr Hoosen: Can you remind us about when you were here on the previous occasion. In your testimony to the Committee, you explained what in your view the reasons why Mr Steyn was moved to Munich were. Can you recall exactly what you said to us at that stage -- what the reason was?
Mr Kobese: I am starting in a very difficult position. I need your guidance, Chairperson. Firstly, Members of Parliament made a submission that I lied under oath and you repeated the same. For me, that is a very serious accusation and I would love to have this accusation kicked off because, Mr Hoosen, what you are raising was never asked. I was never asked the reasons for Mr Steyn being recalled, not even once. So now, Parliament is saying I was asked that question and I lied. I want to stress that I was never asked.
Mr Hoosen: Can you remember what the discussion was around the reasons why Mr Steyn was moved, and what your comment was?
Mr Kobese: I was never asked that question.
Mr Hoosen: When Mr Steyn was here earlier, we put the same question to him and I think you were listening in. He confirmed that he was watching this inquiry on TV. He also confirmed that he heard you explaining the reasons. Are you suggesting that his interpretation is incorrect or are you suggesting that he lied?
Chairperson: Before he starts to respond, let us agree that we will give him any information that he wants. There is no information that we cannot give you. This is an open process -- open to the extent that Mr Steyn's appearance today confirms what he saw on TV. There is no information we will not give you. We will give you anything that you want. If you want transcripts, once they are ready we will give them to you. How you want to use them it is up to you. Here you are going to respond to questions that are put before you. If a question is put before you now, you are going to respond to that question. You are not going to be wanting to clarify. It is a question that you will have to answer in Parliament today. You are going to answer that question. That is the approach we are going to take today. So, the question that Mr Hoosen is asking, he must repeat.
Mr Hoosen: What is your recollection of what was said?
Mr Kobese: I can't have a recollection of something that I don't know anything about, and that was never put to me. There is a difference in asking me that question now. I don't recall at all being given an opportunity to answer a question why Mr Steyn was recalled. I don't recall at all.
Chairperson: Don't rush -- take your time, because I want this record to be clear of what you are saying. So take your time, let the stress level go down. Be very composed and go straight to the answer, and then we will get what we want.
Mr Kobese: I do not mind answering the question if it is posed to me now, but when it was posed previously, I don't recall. I don't recall even answering that question.
Mr Hoosen: What is your understanding of why Mr Steyn was moved to Munich?
Mr Kobese: Let me first explain the relationship between myself and Mr Steyn.
Chairperson: I want you to get straight to the point. The whole experience of how much or how well you knew him is not going to work today. I want you to talk to the question and answer on your knowledge on the removal of Mr Steyn. That is all. I don't want to hear about your relationship with Mr Steyn. It is about his removal from New Delhi to Munich. That is the question that you are asked.
Mr Kobese: Just be patient with me. I need to answer the way I need to answer so that you can understand fully.
Chairperson: We have listened to you before and I know the approach and the stresses that you apply. Today, here, I want the precise answers. We don't have many questions -- we have about six questions for you today, and I want precise answers to those questions. I don't want the chapter of wanting to explain how much you have known him or met him in Home Affairs 20 years ago. I don't want that story today. The story that we want is a question of your knowledge of his removal, because there is a record here, because if you look at the submission it talks about you and your involvement in the submission for removal of Mr Steyn to Munich. The point you are asked is your knowledge on his removal, not the relationship between you and him.
Mr Kobese: I am Mr Steyn's direct supervisor. That is what I wanted to answer when I said I want to talk about the relationship. I am his direct supervisor. When Mr Steyn was recalled, as I had said previously, it was bought to my attention by my Chief Director, Ms Mnyaka. She had a meeting with DDG Mr McKay and the DG, and what was communicated to her was that Mr Steyn and Ms Ansie van Heerden had to be redeployed from New Delhi. So, because I am the one responsible for those processes internally in terms of operations, they brought the matter to my attention. As a supervisor, I asked the reasons for their removal.
Mr Hoosen: Just go on. You are saying to us now that the decision to move him to Munich was brought to your attention. Is that correct?
Mr Kobese: The decision to move Mr Steyn and Ms Ansie van Heerden was brought to my attention. It was not even to Munich -- it was to move them from New Delhi.
Mr Hoosen: Because?
Mr Kobese: Because of the breakdown of the relationship with the head of mission. That is what I was told.
Mr Hoosen: Who told you this?
Mr Kobese: It was my Chief Director, Ms Mnyaka.
Mr Hoosen: If you are saying what you are saying now, that according to what was brought to your attention that there was relationship breakdown between Mr Steyn and the High Commissioner, and if Mr Steyn had heard that on TV, he wouldn't be incorrect?
Mr Kobese: No.
Mr Hoosen: When Mr Steyn was here earlier and when he said to us that you had lied to us, is he telling the truth.
Mr Kobese: No.
Mr Hoosen: So he is lying?
Mr Kobese: I won't say he is lying. Maybe the occasion overwhelmed him and he thinks he heard what he didn't hear. All I am saying is, if you can give me proof that I lied, then I will accept it.
Mr Hoosen: According to you, it was brought to your attention that there was a breakdown in the relationship?
Mr Kobese: Yes.
Mr Hoosen: But Mr Steyn says there was no breakdown in the relationship as far as he understands, and you heard him say that?
Mr Kobese: Yes.
Mr Hoosen: So, Ms Mnyaka was lying?
Mr Kobese: As a supervisor, I did not know of any breakdown of the relationship.
Mr Hoosen: But the information that was brought to you stated that there was a breakdown in the relationship, and you probably took it on face value, and you acted on it?
Mr Kobese: No, I didn't.
Mr Hoosen: Did you investigate whether there was a breakdown in the relationship.
Mr Kobese: I didn't plan on this dialogue. Like I said, I challenged that.
Chairperson: I don't want to create dialogue. Allow him to ask questions and as he responds, Mr Hoosen, don't interrupt him. Allow him to compose himself. He says that we must be kind to him and we are very kind to him today. Let us do it in a manner so that it is very clear on record what you are saying.
Mr Hoosen: When the supposed breakdown in relationship was brought to your attention, and I will repeat it again, what was your reaction to it?
Mr Kobese: I said as a supervisor, I did not know of any breakdown in relationship. It was never brought to my attention. That is what I said.
Mr Hoosen: So clearly, the information that was brought to your attention was not true?
Mr Kobese: According to where I was standing, it was not true.
Mr Hoosen: So the person who brought that information to you obviously was lying to you?
Mr Kobese: According to where I was standing, yes, it was not true.
Mr Hoosen: It was a lie.
Mr Kobese: Yes.
Chairperson: What informed him to say it was a lie? Have you done an investigation of your own? What did you do when you heard about the breakdown of the relationship? You simply agreed to the lie. What did you do when you knew people were lying?
Mr Kobese: There is a difference between an allegation and a decision. This did not come as an allegation -- it came as a decision that he had to be moved. You see the difference between the two. I have dealt with many cases of heads of missions complaining about officials and requesting them to be removed, and when I have done investigations they were never removed because I found there was nothing wrong with the official. So it was not for the first time that a report of a breakdown in the relationship between an official and a head of mission was being reported, and I had dealt with that as a person. But in this instance, I was not asked to investigate -- I was told that he had to move. So there is a difference between you saying there is an allegation and me being instructed that he has to move. That is where the difference is.
Mr Hoosen: I understand, but the decision would obviously have come as a consequence of something, because generally people take decisions for a reason?
Mr Kobese: I agree.
Mr Hoosen: In this particular instance, there was a decision taken and the reason in that particular case was that there was a breakdown in the relationship?
Mr Kobese: Yes.
Mr Hoosen: And as far as you are concerned there was never a breakdown in relationship?
Mr Kobese: Yes.
Mr Hoosen: So why then do you suspect that he was moved? What is your suspicion?
Mr Kobese: I wouldn't know. Like I said, it was not only Mr Steyn -- it was both officials and the Ambassador. We were told to move both of them, not one, and we were given two names to replace them with -- Mr Christians and Mr Mgabe. I opposed this, because firstly Mr Mgabe did not have a security clearance and I had raised operational concerns where the Department considered not deploying Mr Mgabe, but they had continued and insisted on deploying Mr Christians. I did do something about it. It was not that I did nothing.
Mr Hoosen: The question I am asking you -- listen to the question carefully – is that you have said there was no breakdown in the relationship as far as you are concerned, and the person who brought this information to you clearly lied after you investigated it. What was your suspicion for the real reason he was removed?
Mr Kobese: Heads of missions, most of the time, don't get along well with officials and will request through the Minister or DG for that person to be removed. So, where a decision is taken and you are not required to do an investigation, then there is nothing you can do. It comes in succession, where the head of mission has complained that someone must be removed, while in some other instances it comes as a complaint and I am asked to investigate and make a recommendation on what should happen. In this instance, it did not happen that way.
Mr Hoosen: I am going to repeat the question again for you. Please listen to me carefully. I understand the explanation you are giving me. I am saying to you, as far as you were concerned at the time there was no breakdown in the relationship -- correct?
Mr Kobese: Yes.
Mr Hoosen: So, the real reason for him being removed was not really because there was a breakdown in the relationship?
Mr Kobese: I don't know.
Mr Hoosen: But you have said it.
Mr Kobese: I said that from where I was standing as the supervisor, there was no evidence to support it, but that doesn't prevent the department from redeploying an official. Let me explain...
Chairperson: No, you are a supervisor?
Mr Kobese: Yes.
Chairperson: You are in charge of that unit?
Mr Kobese: Yes.
Chairperson: For how long have you been employed there?
Mr Kobese: I am sure that at the time Mr Steyn was removed, I had been there for two years.
Chairperson: In your workings, had you interacted with Mr Steyn?
Mr Kobese: Yes.
Chairperson: In your interaction with Mr Steyn, you didn't pick up anything that was problematic with his operations?
Mr Kobese: No.
Mr Hoosen: I am trying to get an answer from you. Clearly the reasons for his redeployment had nothing to do with the relationship breakdown -- is that correct?
Mr Kobese: I wouldn't know that.
Chairperson: No, with your knowledge, from where you are sitting, you don't know of any relationship breakdown.
Mr Kobese: No, I don't know of any.
Mr Hoosen: So, get what I am saying to you. Someone comes to you and says, I am moving this gentleman because there is a relationship breakdown and you are obviously very unhappy. You investigate and you get to the bottom of it, and realise there is no relationship breakdown.
Chairperson: He did not investigate on this one. It was an instruction.
Mr Hoosen: I get that. So it was a decision that was already taken. You have explained that, but you were not happy it and you said that and you tried to get to the bottom of it. Was there really a relationship breakdown? You determined there was no relationship breakdown. By then, the decision had been taken. Surely, in your head, you must have wondered the real reason this gentleman was being moved had nothing to do with a relationship breakdown -- isn't that true?
Mr Kobese: Unfortunately, I didn't do an investigation.
Mr Hoosen: Didn't you even ask if there was a relationship breakdown?
Chairperson: As a supervisor?
Mr Kobese: I asked my supervisor, but my supervisor didn't tell me of any breakdown in the relationship and that was the end of it.
Mr Hoosen: Maybe an investigation in your mind is a six month process, but you asked some questions?
Mr Kobese: I did ask some questions.
Mr Hoosen: And you reached the position where you were convinced there was no breakdown in relationship, correct?
Mr Kobese: Yes.
Mr Hoosen: Where you not suspicious about what the other reasons that this gentleman was being moved were?
Mr Kobese: No.
Mr Hoosen: You just went on with your normal daily life and never bothered to even find out why?
Chairperson: Did you raise your concerns? Did you write to anyone? Did you write to Mr Apleni? Did you write to the Minister, or HR, to raise your concerns? Is there any record that says that you did make a complaint?
Mr Kobese: Not a complaint, but I did raise concerns.
Chairperson: How did you raise them? In writing?
Mr Kobese: Yes, in writing.
Chairperson: Where is that letter of your concerns?
Mr Kobese: When the matter was brought to my attention, I raised this in the meeting with DDG, Mr McKay and the DG, because there were two people that were proposed. That is when it was accepted that the other official who was identified was not going to be shifted, and only one official was going to be shifted. I even wrote a submission to say if there were problems of a breakdown of relationship between Mr Steyn and the head of mission, there were other missions which were also experiencing the same problems, so why could the Department not have a comprehensive approach instead of targeting one mission? I can look for that submission -- I wrote it and I can send it. So, I did make a message to ensure that this was not a target at Mr Steyn in New Delhi alone. It was a comprehensive submission to look at other missions.
Chairperson: That information that you wrote to Mr McKay would be in email form. Do you have a copy of the submission? Do we have a copy in our file?
Mr Kobese: Yes.
Chairperson: You said as far as you knew, there were no problems here?
Mr Kobese: No, let me repeat this again so that I am...
Chairperson: No, it is fine we will get the recording.
Mr Kobese: I said in the meeting, as a supervisor, that there was no breakdown in the relationship between Mr Steyn and the head of mission.
Chairperson: You will get us that email. We want it.
Mr Hoosen: You say you were clearly not happy about that move, and I want to understand exactly what it is that you did to protest that decision, because you did mention earlier there were often times where there were attempts to move people from missions and you intervened and it was stopped. You said that and in this particular case you were clearly not satisfied, so what interventions did you make?
Mr Kobese: I will repeat myself over what I said I did. I wrote a submission to say, let's have a comprehensive approach where we are not only moving officials from New Delhi, but let's look at all missions which are problematic. So, that is the intervention I made.
Mr Hoosen: Did you get a response to that intervention?
Mr Kobese: The response I got was that there were not sufficient resources to move people around.
Mr Hoosen: The appointment of Mr Steyn didn't follow a normal process?
Mr Kobese: Expatiate please?
Mr Hoosen: As far as I understand, there is an email where you acknowledge the appointment of Mr Christians was not through the proper process?
Mr Kobese: What I said is, during the appointment of Mr Christians it was done outside the cycle, so the post was not advertised. Therefore, because the post was not advertised, it wouldn't have had the recruitment process attached to the submission. What I raised with HR, where the submission was signed by the Minister, this was the other anomaly. It didn’t mean it was irregular -- in normal processes for the transfer of officials to missions, I am the one who signs the submission. I am the one who drafts the submission. This submission was drafted by HR, and not by us. So I said, you can't draft a submission to the Minister and ask me questions on something you officiated yourselves -- that is what I was saying to HR internally, because I didn't initiate the transfer or replacement of Mr Christians to New Delhi. I didn't. I know the media wants us to believe the report submitted to Parliament by OUTA, but unfortunately the opposite is the fact. I never facilitated it. I never initiated it.
Mr Hoosen: Initiated what? The appointment of Mr Christians?
Mr Kobese: Yes, I never initiated it.
Chairperson: Who initiated the appointment of Mr Christians?
Mr Kobese: I don't know, like I said...
Chairperson: No, you must be sure.
Mr Kobese: What I am saying is the names of Mr Christians and Mr Mgabe came from the Chief Director, from the meetings she had with the DG.
Chairperson: Which Chief Director?
Mr Kobese: Ms Mnyaka.
Chairperson: From a meeting with?
Mr Kobese: A meeting she had with DDG Mr McKay and DG Mr Apleni.
Chairperson: So, they came with that name?
Mr Kobese: Yes.
Chairperson: How do you know that?
Mr Kobese: Because it was bought to my attention by the Chief Director. I was told that I had to move Mr Steyn and Ms Van Heerden.
Chairperson: Did they say to you from this meeting that they had agreed on the following names?
Mr Kobese: Yes.
Chairperson: Was that in writing or verbal?
Mr Kobese: Verbally.
Mr Hoosen: To go back to the point of the removal of Mr Steyn from Munich. Mr Steyn was here and said that as far as he understands, there was never a problem. He was a good performer and you maintained that was the case -- that there was never a relationship problem?
Mr Kobese: Not that I know of.
Mr Hoosen: If Ms Mnyaka came to you and said this was a problem, clearly they were misinformed or they lied?
Mr Kobese: Not necessarily. I have said that heads of missions can report problems to the Minister or the DG.
Chairperson: How do they do that? How do they report their problems? Do they write or make a telephone call? What is the practice?
Mr Kobese: In all the cases that were referred to me where I got a complaint, I insisted the head of mission must write a report of the complaint so I can look into it.
Chairperson: Was there a report from the head of mission?
Mr Kobese: In this instance, there was no report that came to my attention.
Mr Hoosen: So as far as you understand, the High Commissioner did not write to the Minister or anyone?
Mr Kobese: It never came to my attention that there was that report.
Mr Hoosen: I understand the report may have not come to your attention, but was there any information that you were aware of that could have trigged the movement of Mr Steyn?
Mr Kobese: I don't know. I don't lie.
Mr Hoosen: The previous time you were here you before us, you made a submission that you and Mr Chawla had some interaction with each other and there was email correspondence between the two of you. If I am not mistaken, and correct me if I am wrong, you suggested that there were about 12 emails, or there about. Do you remember what it was?
Mr Kobese: No, I said from my record there couldn't be many. I even submitted the emails that I had to Parliament. I made them available.
Mr Hoosen: How many were they?
Mr Kobese: 10, or whatever.
Mr Hoosen: Let me remind you. When you were here before, you said as far as you understand there were less than 10 emails, but from what you submitted to Parliament it was certainly much more than 10. If I am not mistaken, there were about 58.
Chairperson: There were more than 20 of them that were outside his submission. His communication with Mr Chawla was more than 10 emails. It is confirmed that he has acknowledged the emails and confirmed that there was a relationship and communication with Mr Chawla. The point I am making is that he does not know how some of them were sent to him, but generally he has acknowledged the communication with Mr Chawla.
Mr Hoosen: You have heard that Mr Steyn was here earlier, and he indicated there was often interventions from Mr Chawla whenever they were applications on his desk. You have also heard him say that they were times when you used to make interventions on behalf of Mr Chawla or the Gupta family. Was he correct then?
Mr Kobese: Yes.
Mr Hoosen: Can you recall what interventions you made?
Mr Kobese: If you listened to Mr Steyn, in almost all instances the emails that he referred to had nothing to do with non-compliance with the legislation. They were much more about fast tracking. There is a problem in terms of the use of the term “fast tracking.” In a report submitted to Parliament, it gives turnaround times for the issuing of visas. It says the visitor visa turnaround time is seven days, and any other visa that is longer term will be eight weeks. The gist of the matter is that there is no time limit in terms of the minimum period in which you can issue a visa. The Embassy can issue a visa within a day. The problem which I have considered with the Department, and that most people in academia have raised, is that unlike the law in other Embassies where there is something called an “express visa,” where a person doesn't have to wait for the turnaround, as it is specified that the person will pay an additional fee to have the visa issued more quickly than the turnaround time. South Africa does not have an express visa, meaning that when people come and request fast tracking it is unfortunate that it creates a big hole where officials, when they fast track, get accused of corruption and asked why they are fast tracking people's visas. So, that is the problem we are sitting with. I can tell you on a daily basis whether it is an ID or a passport for which people request fast tracking. It is a normal life at Home Affairs. In an instance where I had interacted with Mr Steyn, it would be on that basis for the fast tracking.
Mr Hoosen: I understand, but the point is that what we are trying to get to the bottom of is, you heard Mr Steyn, you probably heard Mr McKay on the previous occasion he was here, and you have heard Mr Christians as well when he was here, and what we are trying to get to the bottom of is that the Gupta family or their relatives or associates of the Gupta family -- Mr Chawla, for example -- was able to fast track applications for visas even faster than the other ordinary applicant. You have heard Mr Steyn confirm that they had received preferential treatment -- do you agree with him?
Mr Kobese: I wouldn't know because I am not the one who issues visas, so Mr Steyn would be in a better position because he is the one sitting at the mission.
Mr Hoosen: Do you agree with him?
Mr Kobese: I wouldn't know.
Mr Hoosen: You either agree or disagree.
Mr Kobese: Please repeat the question so that when I answer...
Mr Hoosen: The question is very simple.
Mr Kobese: Okay.
Mr Hoosen: Mr Steyn confirmed to us earlier on that the Gupta family received preferential treatment in the New Delhi mission. Do you agree with him?
Mr Kobese: No, I don't agree.
Mr Hoosen: Because?
Mr Kobese: I don't agree because there are so many companies that have interacted with Mr Steyn when based in New Delhi and in Germany, where I have communicated to him to issue visas within 24 hours. That I have done and I confirm this. That is why I don't understand the preferential treatment, because I have done that with many people.
Mr Hoosen: On that point, may I just remind you that what Mr Steyn said to us was that he was well aware that if there was an application before him from Sahara Computers, Infinity Media or from any other Gupta associate, he knew he was going to get a call from either the High Commissioner, or an email or a call from you, and because of that he fast tracked visa applications. It means that he was under pressure and it was on that basis that he believed that he gave preferential treatment, so how can you disagree with that?
Mr Kobese: No, if it is from that angle, I do agree.
Mr Hoosen: So when Mr McKay was here on the previous occasion and according to him -- given what he had heard about what Mr Christians' was going on about, his full testimony and the information that you also provided Mr McKay -- confirmed there was preferential treatment there, if I am correct. Do you agree with him?
Mr Kobese: I was not here.
Mr Hoosen: Alright, but I am telling you now what he told us.
Mr Kobese: If he said so, I agree with him. Yes.
Mr Hoosen: I accept that you were not there when he made those submissions. I am telling you so you must take me on my word for it now that Mr McKay has confirmed to us as far as he is concerned from the information that he got then, that the Gupta family received preferential treatment.
Mr Kobese: Okay. I agree with him.
Mr Hoosen: So, Mr Steyn and Mr McKay -- these are all senior people who were directly involved and including yourself, they now agree that the Gupta family received preferential treatment from Home Affairs. Is that correct?
Mr Kobese: Yes.
Mr Hoosen: May I just ask you how you think we have come to this situation -- that a family like that could receive preferential treatment over and above everybody else? Something must be going on that a senior person like yourself, a senior person like Mr McKay, and a senior person like Mr Steyn, all agree that they there was preferential treatment. How have we come to this situation? What is your view?
Mr Kobese: It is so easy to analyse things on hindsight, but when things were happening at the time, you do not have the ability or the privilege of having hindsight. I am sure at that point in time the driver behind the preferential treatment was the fact that here was a company coming with lots of investment into South Africa, and South Africa needed these investments, so all the support should be provided in order to ensure that we were able to facilitate the investment. I would say one thing to officials, irrespective of whoever we were dealing with -- and I am sure you heard Mr Steyn when he was explaining -- that our role was not to frustrate applicants but to facilitate their movement.
Chairperson: In light of the developments that we now know, if you look back, the same applies to what we said and Mr Steyn then confirmed. When he looks back now he understands the bigger picture, that when he was rejecting those applications this in fact led to his removal. But for him, he was just looking at the greener pasture that he was now going to Munich, where it was healthier, there were air conditioners and everything, but now he understands that in fact that what he was blocking was big corruption there. Does that come to you too? Now, when you look at the relationship you had with Mr Chawla, who is the principal person who is very close to Home Affairs? In fact, it is Mr Chawla who captured Home Affairs. Where you are sitting now, are you certain about this picture that this Parliament is trying to unravel? Can you see all of these mistakes and how officials in fact led themselves, because you ended up having a relationship with him -- a very personal relationship? That is where you ended up, to the extent that even your brother had to take over from you when you left and you made it a point that you did not know how they met, because it was a business person, but you know in reality that you were the first person to meet Mr Chawla. When you resigned from that company and handed over the company to your brother, the relationship continued. The relationship between Mr Chawla and your brother continued -- it never stopped. Now that you are here, you can now see the picture. We are still going to deal with Mr Sundaram’s affidavit that confirms the level of corruption.
Regarding the point that Mr Hoosen is making, just be very honest with us as you answer here. We are going to make a finding at the end of the day. The finding that we are going to make as Parliament is that heads are going to roll here, especially for people who don't want to accept when they have committed these wrongs and opened our country for criminals to come and run every single department. Mr Chawla becomes a central person, and we are now friends with him. We like him so much, he buys us motorbikes, he buys us Mini Coopers, he does all of these things and it is normal. It is okay when we serve the country. It can't be that it is not going to happen. So let's engage and be open -- what does this now tell you? All these things that are now coming forth -- what do they tell you? They did not come with even a cent when they were coming to this country, but they are bringing so much investment. How much did they put into this country? But please, let us not go there -- I am just trying to demonstrate the seriousness of what we are dealing with here. Everybody is smiling. It is nice. The Republic is gone. Everyone is just happy and says no, we like it, these people were very good to us, and we sent our CVs there. Just imagine -- an officer of the state takes his CV and goes to Saxonwold. He submits his CV there and within a week he is employed in New Delhi again, and it is normal. It can't be. Let's get back to business. I just want you to understand the seriousness of what we are dealing with.
Mr Hoosen: I remind you again, the question that I ask, and which the Chairperson is building on, is to get your view on how did we come to this situation that the Gupta family or the associates had such a great influence over senior officials in Home Affairs that they could receive preferential treatment? What did you have to offer? How did we get to this situation?
Mr Kobese: Maybe it could be due to the lack of capacity to have intelligence-driven processes, because if you had to ask whether there is a probability of what happened repeating itself, I would say yes. The reasons, like I said, are because our role in the forefront is to ensure we are able to attract as much investment as possible. So if people come to you and lie and say they have billions when they don’t have billions, unfortunately there are other people who are employed to do the analysis of what resources they are bringing. Once the resources they are bringing are confirmed, unfortunately our role is to facilitate the movement of those people. Unless we can build in systems where the Department is also able to have intelligence-driven processes, we cannot ensure that we are able to prevent that from happening. It is a weakness within the system -- that is what is unfortunate.
Mr Hoosen: I appreciate what you are saying, but may I ask this direct question: did you at any stage realise that Mr Ashu Chawla and the family that he represents held a significant amount of influence amongst senior politicians and government? Is that your view?
Mr Kobese: Yes.
Mr Hoosen: I am sure there are many other colleagues of yours within the Department who have the same opinion of them?
Mr Kobese: Probably, yes.
Mr Hoosen: That they held a certain amount of power over political influence. Correct?
Mr Kobese: Yes.
Mr Hoosen: So, it is very possible that part of the reasons why many officials went way beyond the call of duty to bend over backwards, literally, to assist Ashu Chawla and the Gupta family, was because they were very aware of the political influence that they held. Correct?
Mr Kobese: Yes.
Mr Hoosen: Who in your view did they have that political influence over?
Mr Kobese: Who in my view? That is a very difficult question.
Mr Hoosen: But if you have got political influence, it must be over a politician. Which politician in your view did they have political influence over?
Mr Kobese: Unfortunately, I don’t want to make assumptions about people. I didn’t know. It is just a fact that, generally, they have got influence, generally.
Mr Hoosen: Over whom? The President? The Minister? Other Ministers?
Mr Kobese: I am sure mostly it was the President. Yes.
Mr Hoosen: President Zuma. And Mr Gigaba?
Mr Kobese: Let me explain something about Minister Gigaba. Firstly, I don’t have his number. I have never…
Mr Hoosen: No. I am sorry to interrupt you.
Mr Kobese: I wouldn’t know what relationship he has with people.
Mr Hoosen: I am sorry to interrupt you. I am asking you a direct question.
Chairperson: Mr Hoosen asked you a question about the family influence of the Guptas over politicians, and you say maybe the President. Which President are you talking about?
Mr Kobese: I said according to general perceptions.
Chairperson: Which President are you talking about?
Mr Kobese: It was the former President, according to general perception.
Chairperson: So for you to make that conclusion, is it because you have his number?
Mr Kobese: No.
Chairperson: So where does it come in -- you not having the number of Minister Malusi (Gigaba)? What do you mean? What do you want to tell us? Is there anything that you want to tell us that we don’t know?
Mr Kobese: I am asked the question about a person’s relationship with other people, so I am saying I don’t even have access to that person. I see that person on TV. I don’t know who he relates with.
Chairperson: Who do you see on TV?
Mr Kobese: Our Minister.
Chairperson: You see him only on TV?
Mr Kobese: Yes, I see the Minister on TV.
Chairperson: You have only met him on TV?
Mr Kobese: No, I see him once in a while.
Chairperson: Have you met with him? Have you ever worked with him before?
Mr Kobese: Not directly.
Chairperson: Have you met and worked with him before?
Mr Kobese: Yes.
Chairperson: So the issue of only seeing him on TV -- what does it mean?
Mr Kobese: No, I am saying I do not have a relationship with him where I see him every day, every week.
Chairperson: That is fine.
Mr Hoosen: I come back to the question around political influence, and I get it that you are giving me your opinion and that opinion matters, because it tells us the state of mind of many of the senior officials in the Department and the way you were operating. If Mr Chawla and the Gupta family didn’t get what they wanted you knew, as you said, that they had got political influence. Correct? And that there was a very real possibility that if they didn’t get what they wanted that one of you was going to get a call from the President’s office, possibly?
Mr Kobese: I am listening.
Mr Hoosen: I am asking.
Mr Kobese: I wouldn’t know whether people get calls from the President’s office or not.
Mr Hoosen: I am trying to get to the bottom of what you have accepted -- that Mr Chawla and the Gupta family received preferential treatment. You have accepted that they had political influence. Surely, there must be a link between the two. Does that make sense to you?
Mr Kobese: Yes, it does.
Chairperson: And he has accepted again that the Guptas have influence on him too, because of his relationship with Mr Chawla.
Mr Hoosen: So whether you realised it or not, I am sure Mr Chawla made you feel very important when he called on you for your assistance, and I am sure that you probably thought you were doing the right thing by going beyond the call of duty to assist him. But in the back of your mind you, and possibility other officials, knew that if Mr Chawla didn’t get what he wanted it was very likely that you were probably going to get a call from somebody senior, or some senior politician. Is that possible?
Mr Kobese: Let me untangle the web, because I see the web you are trapped in. Let me untangle it for you.
Chairperson: No, you see this thing -- that we are trapping you. We have got nothing to trap you. We want you to tell us the truth, and nothing else but the truth. We don’t have to trap you for anything. If we want the truth, we want the truth you are going to tell us the truth. We won’t put stress on you. You are an officer of the state. You are here. You are appearing. You are under oath. Why must we set a trap for you? We can’t set a trap for you. You said last time that I was setting a trap to you. I can’t set a trap to you. Just answer our question properly and give us the truth, and then we are fine. This wanting to defend yourself all the time, that we want to put you in a trap -- no one wants to put you in a trap. We will make a finding at the end of this inquiry and once it is passed by Parliament, no one can change it.
Mr Kobese: Okay. I was still trying to answer Mr Hoosen. I think what you are trying to establish is to what extent did I understand the influence of Sahara, because at this point in time it was Sahara, not the Guptas, because I had never dealt with the Guptas. I saw them in the media, like everyone else. So you want me to say is how we, as a Department, were able to assist and even request missions where necessary, to do what we did. Let me answer you. I knew that Mr Chawla didn’t just arrive from the sky, or drop from the sky. What happened was that I got a call from the Minister’s Chief of Staff, Mr Thamsanqa Msomi, who said there was this Mr Chawla who was the CEO of Sahara. Sahara had got problems with the visas in the mission. They were taking long to finalise the visas and that was going to impact on the movement of the business people they were inviting. The issue was, could we please ensure we were able to assist when necessary to fast track those applicants.
Mr Hoosen: When was this?
Mr Kobese: That was around early 2015.
Chairperson: So, this person called you from the office of the Minister?
Mr Kobese: Yes.
Mr Hoosen: How did Mr Msomi come to the conclusion they were having problems? Did somebody write to him?
Mr Kobese: I don’t know, because people make enquiries with the Minister’s office, which would communicate with us that they had got an enquiry from a client, and could we please make sure that we assist the client.
Mr Hoosen: In your understanding, when Mr Msomi contacted you, you assumed at that stage that somebody had probably written to the Minister?
Mr Kobese: Yes, definitely.
Mr Hoosen: Going back to the point that I made to you earlier on about the political influence of the Gupta family, you accept now that the political influence extended to the Minister’s office as well for you to get such a call from Mr Msomi?
Mr Kobese: Yes, probably.
Chairperson: What was the normal protocol from the Minister’s office? Did staff from the Minister’s office communicate directly with staff on the ground without going via the office of the DG, the Accounting Officer? Did they communicate directly to anyone?
Mr Kobese: Yes, they did.
Chairperson: Without the DG knowing as the Accounting Officer?
Mr Kobese: Yes, they did.
Ms Mkhaliphi: After you received the call from the Chief of Staff, how many applications did you process?
Mr Kobese: I don’t process applications. How many came to my attention? Like I said, it was the emails that I have made available.
Ms Mkhaliphi: How many?
Chairperson: Do you know how many of those you have submitted? Meaning that you didn’t issue the visas, but you had facilitated with Mr Christians and Mr Steyn. How many of them had you done? A lot of them? Two of them? One?
Mr Kobese: Like I said, according to my record I am sure those emails were around about eight.
Ms Mkhaliphi: You have just told us now that you didn’t know Mr Chawla. There was a call from the Chief of Staff who was working at the Minister’s office, and that call specifically told you there were applications that needed to be facilitated. Surely the first word from you was to ask how many? What were those applications? So, did you recall how many of those you managed to assist, according to that call? I don’t think it would be very difficult to remember that.
Mr Kobese: Let me answer you this way. At the time when I got that call, it was not that there were applications that were stuck. It was to say that there was this person who had experienced these problems and this person was going to liaise with you. Could you ensure that in future when there are problems you are able to assist? So, it didn’t mean there were applications sitting on the system currently that had to be cleared. No, it was just for the future purposes.
Ms Mkhaliphi: Surely, when he called you saying, please make sure this person doesn’t encounter any problems, you didn’t just say yes? You wanted to know what they were talking about. Can you just elaborate on what future problems were bothering Mr Msomi at the time, in order for you to be told there was this Mr Chawla that needed to be assisted?
Mr Kobese: Like, I said to Mr Hoosen, how it was brought to our attention was that Sahara was bringing a lot of people that were coming for business purposes.
Chairperson: By whom?
Mr Kobese: Mr Msomi.
Chairperson: I want us to be very clear on this point. Mr Msomi then called you. He called you to a meeting?
Mr Kobese: No, he called me over the phone.
Chairperson: Where were you?
Mr Kobese: I was in the office.
Chairperson: In the office. He was calling you from?
Mr Kobese: I don’t know where he was.
Chairperson: So, you just received a call?
Mr Kobese: Yes.
Mr Kobese: Yes.
Chairperson: I want you to give us details of that phone engagement between you and Mr Msomi for the record, because you have now opened up another angle. What then happened?
Mr Kobese: I received a call that stated what Sahara was and the amount of investments it was doing in the country and the projects that they had. The call said that because of the amount of investments they were doing in the country, at times they experienced problems with the facilitation of the visas in missions, because the missions took longer to process applications. So the call was to ensure that when I got enquires from Sahara I must fast track and be able to assist, because all the people they were bringing were credible people. These were business people. That is why you would see in my emails, whenever I sent an email I said could you please assist with this because this is not an ordinary applicant, because that was what was brought to my attention. We were not just processing ordinary applicants -- it was business people that were coming for investment. So that was then my communication and that was how I had been communicating with missions in that regard.
Ms Mkhaliphi: Is it usual for the Chief of Staff to ask you for other applications?
Mr Kobese: Yes, it was not something that was new.
Chairperson: Give us examples of cases where you had been called by Thami to intervene?
Mr Kobese: When they were power outages, and Eskom was struggling to get technicians to come because it was taking longer.
Chairperson: Okay, that’s fine -- this one had nothing to do with power outages. In your normal environment, which one?
Mr Kobese: That is one example I can remember.
Chairperson: There is no other one?
Mr Kobese: Yes.
Chairperson: Okay, it is fine.
Ms Mkhaliphi: So, now it is very clear you helped Mr Chawla’s applications for the Guptas because of the instruction from the Chief of Staff, and that is normal in your environment, right?
Mr Kobese: Yes, it is.
Ms Mkhaliphi: So, the claims made by OUTA to say that you gave the instruction to your junior staff members that whenever they saw any applications from Mr Chawla they must not question, which you then denied -- do you want to put it again?
Chairperson: You are now introduced to Mr Chawla, and you are a supervisor and you have to cascade down this information to your subordinates from the higher officer who instructed you to assist this person. The point the colleague is asking, is that you instructed all your subordinates that when such application came from Mr Chawla, not to ask questions but just implement -- and that is the point we want to understand. It goes back to the allegation from OUTA that in fact you were very hard on your subordinates if they didn’t perform, and you said yourself that if a person did not perform you were a straight-forward person and you dealt with him. That is what you said -- you stay within the law. So, with that relationship and that instruction, your subordinates begin to operate on the basis of that particular understanding. It is going to come to you that some of them are going to confirm here that when such information comes in, they had to support it. Hence, Mr Steyn was not performing because most of those instructions were illegal instructions, and did not comply with the law. That is why the DDG then decided that Mr Steyn must be removed. I have not found anyone who is going to confirm and give me reasons why they removed Mr Steyn, other than this conclusion that I am making. Mr Steyn gets removed because he is not performing. Mr Chawla wants performance and Mr Steyn was not performing -- that is why Mr Christians was sent to go back and had to submit his CV to the Guptas. We will still get to know what happened to that CV after he had submitted it.
Can you just talk to us about your work environment? This is a supervisor we are dealing with. We are dealing with someone one who is already wounded, because we know that one of your top officials in New Delhi has been there without any problems, and that from where you were sitting, you didn’t know Mr Steyn had caused any problems. Now this instruction comes from the highest office -- from the Chief of Staff, who is someone who holds the fort for the Minister. He defends, he advises in that space. Now he has given an instruction that when these people come to you, you must perform. You have to make sure that everyone in your line of command performs. You can see these applications don’t come from London or from New York -- they all come from India. That is why when you read the affidavit that Mr Sundaram wrote to this Parliament, you will then see why Mr Chawla was very active in India. They wanted people to move as fast as possible to come here, with or without documents. We are going to see, when Mr Steyn gives you his report of rejections, what most of the things that were not in the forms were. You will see. In some instances, it was just a letter from Mr Chawla that tells you he had this person who must go, so prepare a visa for him quickly. Mr Steyn will tell you that. So talk to us, because here it is calm. We are not fighting with you today. You are at your best today. Share with this Committee your knowledge, and how then you implemented this decision from Thamsanqa to you and your subordinates. We still have 10 to 15 minutes with you. So just try and wrap up.
Mr Kobese: I never received an instruction, and neither did I issue instructions for officials to turn a blind eye to applications that didn’t meet the requirements. Like I explained, the issue in many instances was not about meeting requirements, it was just about the facilitation for fast tracking. That is why, when you go to the emails, most of the time it was about fast tracking to ensure that it was done within two days or three days, and that was the basis of the enquiry. What OUTA reported is not true. I never issued those instructions to officials. I will never issue those instructions. I always say people must do things within the ambit of the law.
Ms Mkhaliphi: What do you call that call from the Chief of Staff, if not an “instruction”?
Mr Kobese: My interpretation was like any business which is dealing with a lot of clients that are moving, and they are experiencing frustrations. Like I said, if a person knew me, sometimes they would call me, or if they didn’t know me, they would go to the DG or the Minister. So, that is how I understood it. It was a communication regarding people complaining to say that we had got bottlenecks, and could we make sure we were able to intervene. The Chief of Staff was aware that I was the person in charge in terms of the visas issued by officials in the missions. That is why he called me to ensure that I was able to address those bottlenecks.
Ms Mkhaliphi: After that call from the Chief of Staff, did you realise that the Gupta family was very important, or not?
Mr Kobese: At that point in time, it was not about Guptas -- it was about Sahara as a company. Remember, we were dealing with Sahara as a company.
Chairperson: Don’t try to run away from what we are saying. Sahara Computers were owned by the Guptas. Everyone knew who Sahara Computers was. Sahara Computers had an owner and we all know it is a Gupta company. We all know it. They became this prominent figure in the country, so no one will say that they did not know. You were given instructions clearly that you must help Mr Chawla from Sahara Computers. With your knowledge as a highly educated person, you want to tell me that you did not even know who owned Sahara Computers? It is only now that the inquiry starts that you now know it is owned by the Guptas? No, let me be honest. You were helping our country. Today, this exercise is to help your country to really try to understand, so that we are able to move forward. What we know, where we are sitting, is that most of the applications from Mr Chawla were fraudulent applications. They did not comply with the law -- that is what we know. There is evidence, it is written in books, it is written in affidavits. You were having to fast track processes where applications were not compliant. If it did not comply, you knew that you could call Thamsanqa at the office of the Minister and action would be taken and that application would be processed. That is what we know, so don’t try and play holy -- that I am this clean and sweet person, as you tell the Committee you are this straightforward person. We need your straightforwardness today. This straightforward person seems to be dodging now. You are looking at how best you can defend yourself so that you are able to get away from the trap this Committee is setting. We will trap you until tomorrow. We are not going to stop.
Ms Mkhaliphi: In September, when we asked you about the email from OUTA to say that you had raised a concern over the deployment or transfer of Mr Christians, you explained that in fact you were not raising any concerns -- it was the internal process that you were questioning. You just confirmed now that you even raised the concern at a meeting where the DDG and other officials were there. When you raised those concerns, was it after or before the call from the Chief of Staff?
Mr Kobese: It must have been months after.
Ms Mkhaliphi: Okay. When did the meeting take place when you raised your concerns about the internal process of dealing with the transfer of staff, especially this New Delhi one?
Mr Kobese: It should have been around October 2015.
Ms Mkhaliphi: When did you receive that call? You just said to us you received that call in 2015.
Mr Kobese: Yes, in early 2015.
Ms Mkhaliphi: So, after you raised your concern at the meeting -- which was correct because you were dealing with the transfers of people -- did you support the transfer of Mr Christians to New Delhi?
Mr Kobese: I explained that a decision had been taken. It was not for me to recommend. Mine was to implement.
Chairperson: Were you not aware that Mr Christians had a sexual harassment related case in the Department? You were not aware?
Mr Kobese: You will remember when I was here last time, I explained I didn’t even know Mr Christians.
Chairperson: You did not know anything about this police clearance?
Mr Kobese: I did know.
Chairperson: What did you know about the security clearance?
Mr Kobese: The procedure is that when a person doesn’t have security clearance, the office will request forms from the vetting section. Then we will send the forms to the official to apply for security clearance. Once that has been done we do not, as the Foreign Office Coordination, get involved. It becomes a relationship between the vetting section and the official. The only time when we get a report from vetting section is to say the person has been granted clearance, or not been granted. It is only at the time of application and when the clearance comes back, because it has to be sent to us.
Chairperson: By the time he was deployed to New Delhi, the vetting was already done?
Mr Kobese: It was already done, yes.
Chairperson: And the security clearance was already issued?
Mr Kobese: Yes.
Chairperson: Which took about how long?
Mr Kobese: I would say it took around six months. I think so. I don’t know. I don’t recall.
Chairperson: The process of the removal of Mr Steyn and the deployment of Mr Christians -- I want you to give me the time factors in between. The memorandum for the deployment of Mr Christians and redeployment of Mr Steyn is dated 25 October 2015. When did we start with the security clearance for Mr Christians?
Mr Kobese: It started before that submission.
Mr Kobese: Around about October.
Chairperson: I don’t want “round about.”
Mr Kobese: I would not know. Vetting will know.
Chairperson: Who is going to tell us about the process of when did they got the forms?
Mr Kobese: Vetting will know.
Chairperson: Human resources does not know?
Mr Kobese: Vetting section will know.
Chairperson: No, by the time you decide to deploy a person, who does the exercise of making sure that all the steps have been carried out? At what point does human resources get involved? Who starts this process?
Mr Kobese: Foreign Coordination does the process.
Chairperson: Under Foreign Coordination, who is the person there?
Mr Kobese: I will have to find out from Ms Phulani Mulapho. She is the administrator in the office that deals with that.
Chairperson: Who is in charge of that office?
Mr Kobese: Ms Mnyaka was in charge.
Chairperson: Who is in charge of that office now?
Mr Kobese: It doesn’t exist. I don’t know.
Chairperson: So, the foreign office has now closed down?
Mr Kobese: Yes.
Ms Mkhaliphi: When you asked Mr Chawla for a favour regarding your brother’s music, you said before that you approached him because you had been working with him, and eventually you asked for a favour for your brother’s music. Did you know he was working with the Guptas?
Mr Kobese: Can I repeat what I said, because it is on record. What I said was that the music was submitted to Mr Chawla by my brother, just as it gets submitted by everyone else.
Chairperson: How did your brother know Mr Chawla?
Mr Kobese: Because he had met him previously.
Chairperson: Met him where?
Mr Kobese: I don’t know.
Chairperson: Mr Chawla is your friend? You don’t know? Let me tell you now. Now that the Department found it unprocedural for you to run a company, by that time you had a relationship with Mr Chawla and you knew that Mr Chawla had ANN7. You have spoken about that -- you said so in your submission. You then resigned your directorship in the company and gave it to your brother, because there was a conflict. So your brother then took charge. You want to tell us that somewhere in the corner, your brother met Mr Chawla? Come on -- don’t play with us. You are under oath, so don’t play with us. Where is your brother based? In the village, or is he in Johannesburg?
Mr Kobese: Johannesburg, yes.
Chairperson: So, the musician was from?
Mr Kobese: The Eastern Cape.
Chairperson: So, your brother on his own met Mr Chawla without you facilitating any meeting?
Mr Kobese: Can I repeat what I said? You can go to the transcript, it is there. I said that I transferred the company to him, so he submitted music to various radio stations and various TV stations, and ANN7 was one of those that he submitted to. That is what I said.
Chairperson: But if it was ANN7, why Mr Chawla?
Mr Kobese: That I accepted. That is what I said.
Chairperson: There is nothing wrong.
Mr Kobese: You said that the last time -- that there was nothing wrong.
Chairperson: No, you were trying to run away from Mr Chawla knowing your brother.
Mr Kobese: No, I am not.
Ms Mkhaliphi: So, if you brother was not introduced to Mr Chawla by you, according to you now, how did you know that your brother and Mr Chawla knew each other?
Mr Kobese: You remember what I said the last time, and I will repeat what I said. I said I went back to him and asked about that because you remember I said that I had got an inquiry from a newspaper report, which had brought it to my attention. Then I went directly to him and he said he had met the person previously. You must also remember that he was now using my email address and I had described the difficulties of me changing it, because I was the one who opened the email address and it still has my name even today. I explained that process last time, and I said that I don’t know how they met, but what I confirmed was that he did send the music to him. That I explained the last time.
Ms Mkhaliphi: When?
Mr Kobese: I don’t recall. I don’t have a date now.
Chairperson: You see, with this issue that is the only point you deny bluntly -- that in fact you had not arranged a meeting, but by the time this company was set up you already knew Mr Chawla. But it is fine -- we can’t push you beyond that. We will make our own conclusions. You may stand there and say, I am not going to break here. We just want the truth here, that is all.
Ms Dambuza: I want to start at the end. Were you ever disciplined from employment outside the state, in this company, by the Department of Home Affairs?
Mr Kobese: No.
Ms Dambuza: This is difficult. Sometimes you question whether your ears are functioning properly. Why I am saying that, if I recall in our last engagements with Mr Kobese, I am the one who asked a question or raised what he is protesting. I remember the way I put it, and then Mr Kobese had said, no it was not a protest, it was a discussion, so the people who were listening to the discussion took that discussion in a different context. I think the transcript will testify that he said it was just a discussion between himself and the human resources department. That is why we said we wanted human resources here today, as the discussion that was not something that was a concern per se, hence this deployment was not a normal process. It is on record. Now, today he is saying the deployment comes through the office of the Minister and the DG, but it is unfortunate that I want him now to put it on record from which office this deployment came? In which form? Today, I am hearing other people were involved -- the DDGs now, it came via the DDGs, there was no human resources cited. The human resources now is the one that is protesting, because it did not come through HR. Today it came through the DG, but I want him now to put it on record through which office this deployment came through -- by which mode, whether it was an email or an instruction brought by somebody else.
Mr Kobese: The instruction to me came through my Chief Director. My Chief Director explained that she had a meeting with the DDG: Immigration Services, and the DG, which was Mr Apleni at that time. So, that is how it came to me.
Ms Dambuza: Do you know Mr Siyamthanda Skota? If you know him, how does he feature in this discussion?
Mr Kobese: Siyamthanda is in the office of the Ministry. What happens is, after the Minister has signed a submission that goes to the Minister for attention, either for approval or rejection, the office of the Minister will send the submission back to the Department. So Mr Skota sent the submission. It came to me again, via the Chief Director, and at the bottom it shows it was sent by Mr Skota from the Minister’s office, so that we are able to implement. There was never a discussion between us and Mr Skota because he doesn’t have the authority to make a decision. All he was doing was like in any other instance, the administrative staff would send back submissions to us, so that is what happened.
Ms Dambuza: I agree with you on that one. You mean to say that Mr Skota from the office of the Minister also brought the news to you -- that is what you are saying? That he was not discussing the matter, he also brought the news to you that there was this deployment?
Mr Kobese: The sign-off of the submission was after the fact.
Ms Dambuza: The Minister had already taken a decision, so the DDG brought the news to you, and even Mr Skota from the office? I asked you the question to find out if you knew him? What role did he play here? How did he feature in this? You said that he did not play a role in the discussions, he came to you and told you, just as the DDGs had. I wanted you to confirm that.
Mr Kobese: Let me confirm that I never had a discussion with Mr Skota. He never met me. He never came to me. What Mr Skota did was to email the submission to my Chief Director. My Chief Director then brought the submission to my attention for implementation. So, I have never had a discussion with Mr Skota, not at any stage.
Chairperson: It went to your Chief Director, Ms Nomzamo Mnyaka?
Mr Kobese: Yes.
Chairperson: Was it before the meeting with Mr McKay?
Mr Kobese: Let us create some time lines. Firstly, there is a discussion that took place where the Chief Director informed me at that point there was no submission drafted. The discussion took place…
Chairperson: The Chief Director informed you of a decision?
Mr Kobese: Yes.
Chairperson: To redeploy Mr Steyn.
Mr Kobese: Yes.
Chairperson: And put in Mr Christians?
Mr Kobese: Yes.
Chairperson: How? Telephonically?
Mr Kobese: No, she spoke to me in person.
Chairperson: In person. The same as she had done now with Mr Steyn?
Mr Kobese: Yes.
Chairperson: Because she had already communicated with Mr Steyn?
Mr Kobese: Yes.
Chairperson: In that engagement between you and her, did she inform you that she had already communicated with Mr Steyn?
Mr Kobese: No, she communicated with Mr Steyn after speaking to me.
Chairperson: After speaking to you?
Mr Kobese: Because we agreed that she must call Mr Steyn and speak to him in person.
Chairperson: Your discussion with your Chief Director was around an instruction?
Mr Kobese: Yes.
Chairperson: That came from?
Mr Kobese: That came from meetings she had attended.
Chairperson: With whom?
Mr Kobese: With the DG and DDG.
Chairperson: So in fact, the responsibility for deployment did not start…at what point did it go to the Minister?
Mr Kobese: It went to the office of the Minister after all the discussions had taken place.
Mr Kobese: Yes, then it went to the office of the Minister, and that is when then the submission came back.
Chairperson: So you got informed by the Chief Director that Mr Steyn would be redeployed and Mr Christians would then….what were you expected to do?
Mr Kobese: To implement, because like I said…
Chairperson: Then what was the process of your implementation? On top of you knowing there was no problem -- did she tell you of the problems?
Mr Kobese: No.
Chairperson: So how was this redeployment?
Mr Kobese: She indicated that they were complaints.
Chairperson: Yes, that is what I want to hear. She told you that they were complaints about Mr Steyn?
Mr Kobese: Yes.
Chairperson: And therefore Mr Steyn was going to be moved to Munich? She told you that?
Mr Kobese: Yes.
Chairperson: And she told you that Mr Christians would be deployed?
Mr Kobese: Yes.
Chairperson: By that time, where was Mr Christians?
Mr Kobese: He was in Cape Town.
Chairperson: Meaning that they had already communicated with Mr Christians?
Mr Kobese: No, not yet. I wouldn’t know.
Chairperson: You wouldn’t know. You don’t know?
Mr Kobese: Yes, I don’t know.
Chairperson: It’s only she that can tell us.
Mr Kobese: Yes.
Ms Dambuza: You have confirmed that you are the supervisor?
Mr Kobese: Yes.
Ms Dambuza: The direct supervisor of Mr Steyn. I think I need to know what the policy or the procedure within the Department itself is, if somebody is lodging a complaint about an official that you supervise, because whatever complaint comes to the Department, at the end of the day that complaint has to reach the person who supervises. There is a need for the person who directly supervises that person to put a concern to HR so that HR may institute the disciplinary committee (DC) processes. We are talking about the procedures. Here was a person you supervised directly -- what was the policy within the Department itself? You were just being told they were complaints about that particular person and you on your own testified before this inquiry and said there was nothing wrong with Mr Steyn, and you had never received any complaints about him. But now you are telling us that Ms Nomzamo Mnyaka told you that there had been a complaint. Was that normal?
Mr Kobese: It was normal. Like I said, these are officials who are based in missions, so the head of a mission is the day to day supervisor. So, when the head of a mission experiences problems with an official, at times they will report directly to the Minister, or to the DG or DDG. If I am lucky, most of the time, they will report to me because they would know that we have a relationship.
Chairperson: Had that happened before?
Mr Kobese: Yes.
Mr Kobese: It has happened in Cameroon. It has happened in Kenya.
Chairperson: What were the problems in Cameroon?
Mr Kobese: The head of mission said there was a breakdown in the relationship between her and an official, and she wanted the official to be removed, and that had happened.
Chairperson: And where else?
Mr Kobese: In Zimbabwe.
Chairperson: Just be specific -- what was happening?
Mr Kobese: The head of the mission in Zimbabwe said there a breakdown in the relationship with an official.
Chairperson: What were the problems? Break it down. Was it work? Was it because one was not performing?
Mr Kobese: Let me give an example. The head of mission in Zimbabwe said the official who was based there was undermining the authority and not carrying instructions coming from the head of mission.
Chairperson: So how did that complaint come to you?
Mr Kobese: It came to the Minister. From the Minister it went to the DG.
Chairperson: How did it reach the Minister?
Mr Kobese: The head of mission called the Minister.
Chairperson: By telephone?
Mr Kobese: Yes.
Chairperson: That your official was not performing?
Mr Kobese: Yes, he did.
Chairperson: And then because of that, you just removed the official?
Mr Kobese: No, we initiated an investigation.
Chairperson: With this one, you did not do an investigation. Why did you not do an investigation with this one?
Mr Kobese: The Department can answer to that.
Ms Dambuza: You referred to a unit that is responsible for doing an analysis on investments within the Department. I want you to confirm there is such a unit in the Department to analyse investments made by companies? You mentioned that.
Mr Kobese: No, we do not have such a unit. I said that was a gap that we had.
Ms Dambuza: Do you know about the processing of the visas of the people who came to the wedding from India?
Mr Kobese: No, I was not even a part of that unit at that time.
Ms Dambuza: You were not a part?
Mr Kobese: No, I was not.
Chairperson: And you said you were invited to the wedding?
Mr Kobese: No, I never said that.
Ms Kenye: I start by making a follow up on Ms Mkhaliphi’s question on music. If you did not send music to Mr Ashu Chawla, why is your name still added in the emails, because your name is still there in those emails?
Mr Kobese: Like I said, because I am the one who initiated the email. When you initiate an email address, it requires you to write your details, your full name etc. Even if your email address could be something else, it will still have your name attached to it.
Chairperson: So you did not want your brother to start something separately? You still wanted to have control so you could still monitor what was happening in the business? By name, you had resigned, but reality was that the email still came to you so you were able to follow them every day, and check the business with Mr Chawla. You were looking at this money, You wanted to sell this record. You would not break away from the company. You started up the company, but only resigned as a director, and the entire communication and record came to you at a time you were still employed by the Department. You were receiving these emails?
Mr Kobese: No, they did not come to me. Remember that a person who has access to the emails is the person who has got the password.
Chairperson: And that was your brother with the password?
Mr Kobese: Yes.
Chairperson: The password was so secret that your brother could not even share it with you? And that was your company, by the way.
Mr Kobese: I never saw it.
Ms Kenye: I didn’t get the real answer on the OUTA matter. Today you are saying you got instructions from the Chief of Staff, so I repeat the question that I asked before: did you ever reprimand staff to act swiftly to Mr Chawla’s requests, as it was stated that you had the mandate to reprimand the staff and to assist with the problems which arose from Mr Chawla’s applications? As you know, Mr Chawla had been all over the show and Mr Chawla was making higher demands or special demands on visa applications in this country.
Mr Kobese: Fortunately Mr Steyn is here, and I am sure you can bring him back. I have never reprimanded an official, and never ever given an instruction to them or threatened them with action for not taking applications. I have never done that, and you can call Mr Steyn to confirm. I have never done that.
Ms Kenye: So it means that OUTA was lying?
Mr Kobese: I have read the email communication that they are referring to, and in that email there is no reprimand whatsoever. It was a question of me saying to these officials -- and the emails are fortunately in the file – that what was happening was that the system was offline. The official says he couldn’t issue visas while the system was offline. My response was they couldn’t say that because they had hand written visas at their disposal when the system was offline, so how could they say that, and that if they couldn’t do their job, then they must tell me. That is what I said, because we train officials to understand that when a system is offline they are supposed to use hand written visas so travellers do not suffer because the system is offline. That is what I said.
Chairperson: Mr Chawla wants the visas to be issued and the system is down, and you are given instructions make sure that when this man calls you act, and you seriously act. In fact, there is nothing wrong because you want to make sure there is fast tracking even when there is no electricity -- fast tracking must happen.
Mr Kobese: At times, the way you put things is a problem.
Chairperson: I am putting them for you to respond.
Mr Kobese: No.
Chairperson: I am throwing them at you. You must respond. If you don’t want to respond, it is fine. If you want to respond, okay, we can hear from you. We want to probe as much as we can get from you.
Mr Kobese: No, this was a communication where a person was supposed to do something and had not because the person said the system was offline. I was trying to say to her you can’t give that excuse, because it does not arise. It would have arisen if there were no hand written visas that you could use as an alternative. Maybe the way I put it seems as if I was chastising, but I was not doing that. I was just amazed that an official could not do their work because the system was offline when we provide for working offline, so that is what the communication was all about. It was not that I was chastising her.
Ms Kenye: As the Director of Foreign Office Coordination, do you still maintain the deployment of Mr Christians and Ms Munyadziwa was done outside your office?
Mr Kobese: Not outside my office. Again, let me explain what I said. Under normal circumstances, Foreign Office Coordination initiates the deployment of officials. We are the ones who identify officials who are to be deployed. On the basis of that, we draft a submission which will go via the DDG and the DG to the Minister. Then Minister will either approve or disagree, but most of the time he will approve. In this instance, we must separate between the deployment of Mr Christians and Ms Munyadziwa. The deployment of Mr Christians was from a meeting that had been held, and also the process was led by HR. The deployment of Ms Munyadziwa was initiated by us, because I had said from the beginning we had been given two names -- Mr Mgabe and Mr Christians. We had objected to Mr Mgabe, and he was replaced by Ms Munyadziwa, who the office had proposed as an alternative.
Chairperson: Why did you object?
Mr Kobese: Because Mr Mgabe was based in the DRC. When he was in the DRC we had a problem with him at that office in terms of performance, so we couldn’t support the deployment.
Mr Figlan: I think you were angry the first time you came here, but now you look like you are calm. Are you?
Mr Kobese: I’m never angry.
Mr Figlan: How long have you been working for the Department?
Mr Kobese: Eight years.
Mr Figlan: When you were working with the Department, were you also in a business of your own?
Mr Kobese: No.
Mr Figlan: You didn’t have your own company?
Mr Kobese: No. Let me explain this, because I never took what I was doing as running a company, because I saw it as a social responsibility initiative. The Public Service Commission at one time came to the Department and I had a meeting with them and explained to them what we were doing, and explained to them that the company was not making a cent because I was assisting people who had a need. They said to me they understand very well and there was no conflict of interest between what I was doing and what the Department was doing, but all they were asking me to do was to ensure that I got permission so what I was doing didn’t in future haunt me. I could have a bad relationship with my supervisor and my supervisor could use that to say I didn’t declare or I hadn’t got permission. So, it was on that basis I had to write a request for permission, and that permission was declined. Otherwise, the Public Service Commission said to me that what I was doing had got nothing to do with the Department, because it is outside the scope of business.
Chairperson: But can you see now that it is haunting you now?
Mr Kobese: Yes, I can see that.
Chairperson: Regarding your social responsibility, you personally set up your own company rather than helped that person to set up a company, because if it was social responsibility you would have helped that poor boy whose music you loved so much loved, to set up a company for him and not for you. His music had nothing to do with you. You went to your friend Mr Chawla and said, Mr Chawla here is a brother from Eastern Cape, but it is no longer the brother, it is your company now that is going to benefit because the company is in your name. So, the beneficiary of what you then called social responsibility was you, because the man who produced the music was not part of the company.
Mr Figlan: You say that company was not yours? You never registered it under your name?
Mr Kobese: No, I said I did.
Mr Figlan: You did?
Mr Kobese: Yes, I did.
Mr Figlan: But you still feature in the company as a director?
Mr Kobese: No, I don’t feature now. Remember, I said I resigned after I asked for a request based on advice from Public Service Commission. I was advised to seek permission to continue operating it. When that permission was declined, I then had to withdraw. That is what happened.
Mr Figlan: How long ago did you resign?
Mr Kobese: I need to check. I am not sure.
Mr Figlan: Tell me about the relationship between you and Mr Chawla. Was it work related or personal?
Mr Kobese: Work related.
Mr Figlan: For how long?
Mr Kobese: For a period between 2015 and 2016.
Mr Figlan: During that working relationship, did you he ever visit you in the office or in your own time after hours?
Mr Kobese: No, definitely not.
Mr Gumede: You said the Chief of Staff, Mr Thami Msomi, gave direction for the facilitation of some processes. Did this apply only to Sahara and Infinity Media, or did it apply to other companies as well?
Mr Kobese: As I explained previously, it didn’t apply only to Infinity Media and Sahara. The Chairperson did quiz me about that, and I did make mention of other requests that came from other companies.
Chairperson: Came from Thami?
Mr Kobese: Yes. Remember, you asked me that question.
Mr Hoosen: There was an email correspondence that you sent to the embassy, where you raised your concern about the slow pace of processing applications for some business people. Mr Chawla brought that to your attention, and you then wrote to the embassy saying, “can you guys speed this up, these are not ordinary people, these are business people.” You remember that email? In that same email, you also said you were copying in the Minister’s office, remember that?
Mr Kobese: I remember very well, yes.
Mr Hoosen: You then sent that email to Mr Chawla. Yes?
Mr Kobese: Okay, yes.
Mr Hoosen: What was your reason for doing that?
Mr Kobese: I do remember. I did make mention at times we would get enquiries from the office of the Minister, so in this instance I was not person who did name dropping. I would not have said I was copying in the office of the Minister if I hadn’t got a communication from the office of the Minister to assist. So, that means first and foremost that I got a request from the office of the Minister, that enquiry, so that is why I referred to that. Secondly, with any application or enquiry I deal with, maybe that is a problem, but I will explain that some other time. Any enquiry I deal with, I always copy the enquirer the reason why I do so. That is for purposes of continuity and feedback, so that I don’t have to be the middle person every time. So that the enquirer can be comfortable I forward the enquiry to the person that is supposed to resolve it. I do that with everyone. Even if tomorrow you were to send an email, you will see that I will copy you in the email. I do that as standard practice so that you are able to have a direct line of communication with the person who is supposed to resolve your problem. So, I do that with everyone.
Mr Hoosen: So that query and that specific email you say came to you from the Minister’s office?
Mr Kobese: Yes, as an enquiry.
Mr Hoosen: It didn’t come to you from Mr Chawla.
Mr Kobese: But he was copied in the email when it came to me.
Mr Hoosen: I understand. It is clear then that Mr Chawla wrote to the Minister’s office?
Mr Kobese: Yes.
Mr Hoosen: Then the Minister’s office referred it to you, correct?
Mr Kobese: Yes, that is correct.
Mr Hoosen: So Mr Chawla had a direct line to the Minister’s office?
Mr Kobese: Yes, he did.
Mr Hoosen: Was that the only email correspondence?
Mr Kobese: I don’t think so. No, it was not the first one. I don’t recall how many.
Mr Hoosen: But they were a few?
Mr Kobese: Yes.
Mr Hoosen: More than five?
Mr Kobese: I can’t say how many, but it was not the first time in this instance.
Mr Hoosen: I understand, and I am not going to hold you to the figures because I don’t have the emails in front of me to refer them to you, so it would be unfair. I am just trying to get an indication if it was more than 20, or less than 10 occasions where the Minister’s office brought specific cases like this to your attention, and you knew Mr Chawla was involved.
Mr Kobese: I don’t want to tie myself down to numbers, because I don’t have them.
Mr Hoosen: But there were a few?
Mr Kobese: Yes.
Mr Hoosen: On these occasions, were they emails that Mr Chawla would have sent to whom in the Minister’s office?
Mr Kobese: They would come from anyone in the Minister’s office. They would come from the PA or from the Chief of Staff. Most of the time they would come from the Chief of Staff.
Mr Hoosen: It would go from Mr Chawla to the Chief of Staff or the PA, or whoever?
Mr Kobese: Yes.
Mr Hoosen: Do you know whether any one of those staff had raised any of these emails with the Minister?
Mr Kobese: I wouldn’t know. Definitely not.
Mr Hoosen: So you took it that when you received those emails from Mr Msomi or from any other member of the Minister’s office, that it was being done with the blessing of the Minister?
Mr Kobese: Definitely yes. Even today they sent a correspondence from Minister’s office, and the Minster is aware about it.
Chairperson: Has the Minister ever called you for anything?
Mr Kobese: No.
Chairperson: Have you ever received an email that the Minister wrote to you, asking you to please assist?
Mr Kobese: No. I promise you. You will never find it.
Chairperson: That is fine. We are trying to get facts here. You have spoken about his office. The PA and who else?
Mr Kobese: Yes, and the Chief of Staff.
Chairperson: And who else?
Mr Kobese: That’s it.
Chairperson: Only two people?
Mr Kobese: Yes.
Chairperson: That office has only two people in it?
Mr Kobese: No, I am referring to the people who communicated at that time.
Chairperson: Okay. Who is the PA?
Mr Kobese: I wouldn’t recall.
Chairperson: How do you know there is a PA for the Minister?
Mr Kobese: Because it would say on the email.
Chairperson: It would say PA?
Mr Kobese: Yes.
Chairperson: No name?
Mr Kobese: No, it will say the name. All I am saying is, I would have to go to the records.
Chairperson: No, we are trying to get facts, just relax. We are getting facts here. You don’t have to worry. You are still under oath. Don’t forget.
Mr Kobese: Okay.
Mr Hoosen: Given that you have received a number of emails from the Minister’s office saying fast track those applications related to the Gupta family in particular, and Mr Chawla was the contact, what was your impression of the relationship between Mr Chawla and the Minister’s office? What impression did you have of them?
Mr Kobese: When we get enquiries from the Minister, we do not form impressions as to why the Minister’s office is sending something to you. Unfortunately, that is not within our line of work because we take it that when people are not happy with how services are rendered to them, they will elevate it to the office of the Minister. Most of the time we do not try to draw a comparison to anything. We do it with utmost good faith.
Chairperson: But with the Guptas, you now know about the influence. You said earlier that the Guptas had influence. You even went as far as saying that about the former President. Even if you were saying it in a corner, you ended up saying it. I think the point Mr Hoosen is trying to advance is that Mr Chawla would have had this influence.
Mr Kobese: Yes.
Mr Hoosen: Your impression was just general -- it came from the Minister and you were dealing with it. You didn’t have any impression of the relationship that Mr Chawla had with the Minister’s office?
Mr Kobese: Like I said previously, I had known that one of them had a discussion with the Chief of Staff. That was why the Chief of Staff had called, meaning there was a relationship.
Mr Hoosen: Your impression would have been, if I am correct, that this was now an important person, and we needed to get all that was required?
Mr Kobese: Yes, definitely.
Mr Hoosen: Especially given that at a previous occasion, Mr Msomi sent you an email saying that in future with Sahara, you had to sort it out.
Mr Kobese: Yes.
Chairperson: That is why you then got closer to Mr Chawla. You now understood he was a very important man. You got closer to him and starting dealing with him about your personal matters.
Mr Kobese: No.
Chairperson: No? You shared the music with him. It is reality. That is the fact. You had communicated with him and obviously some of the communication was work-related, but you did have some kind of a cordial engagement with him. This is the conclusion we will come to, unless I am wrong. Look at it this way. You don’t know this person. You have never met this person. This person is brought to your attention by the office of the Minister by the Chief of Staff, who says there is this person called Mr Chawla. He is bringing big investments into the country, Sahara Computers. So you went all out to assist this person. Your colleague, Mr Christians, ends up sharing very sensitive information of the state with this particular person. Mr Chawla is a central person in the naturalisation of the Gupta family. He wrote to the Minister for early naturalisation -- Mr Chawla, that you are now close to, and that you now ask to help you with music. It is Mr Chawla that ends up meeting with your brother who took over from the company that you set up. You set up this company and you resigned. Your brother then takes over but your brother continues the relationship with Mr Chawla. Mr Chawla is not a musician. He is not a person that you can meet on the street. He is a high level technical person that opens any door that he wants to open. If he differs with me, he will be here in front of the Committee and differ with me that he is not that person. Even if your brother is a businessman, he is not in the business of music. What business is your brother doing other than the music business?
Mr Kobese: Let me…
Chairperson: No, what other businesses is your brother doing?
Mr Kobese: I don’t know.
Chairperson: Other than the one you resigned from, and he then took over?
Mr Kobese: I did explain last time that…
Chairperson: No, not last time I am asking you now.
Mr Kobese: I don’t know.
Chairperson: You don’t know?
Mr Kobese: Yes.
Chairperson: You only know of one company?
Mr Kobese: I know, for instance, I was talking to him yesterday and he told me he was on his way to Grahamstown to sort out the purchase of land they wanted to buy for…
Chairperson: When you resigned from the company as director, you called your brother and said you had this person that you were trying to help. This company created a conflict for me at work and you want him to take over this company. Just takes us through this again, for the record.
Mr Kobese: Instead of bringing in someone who did not have an idea of what we were doing, I brought on board someone who had been assisting me.
Chairperson: Assisting you with what?
Mr Kobese: Management of the business I was doing. Artists have to travel to go and perform somewhere. I couldn’t take them, so he would take them there. He knew what I was doing. He was involved.
Chairperson: So this company had been doing business before -- it was not only because of this young man that you had met in the Eastern Cape?
Mr Kobese: It started then.
Chairperson: So you then got a lot of artists in between?
Mr Kobese: Something like five years.
Chairperson: Oh, so this was a business -- it was no longer social responsibility?
Mr Kobese: It was social responsibility. Can I…?
Chairperson: No we are probing you, and when we are probing you allow us to speak first and then respond. If you create a dialogue here, the record is going to be a poor record and we are not going to know what we want to know. We were just about to close, now we got to know that this business was a business that was already running. We thought it was one person that you met in the village and you felt like helping the poor man with his good melody. What was the name of the company? We are probing you here. We are very light -- we appeal to you and we are jolly, but we want the truth at the end. This company then gets established on the basis of this person you met at the village. That is the impression you have given to the Committee -- that you met this nice young man. He plays nice music. You decided to set up a company to help this person and Mr Chawla at some point gets to know because he worked within that industry. You then resign because of the conflict, which we now agree was catching up with you, and your brother then takes over. You don’t break the umbilical cord between you and the company. It still exists, but you run it under your brother now. He may not even be active. He may be the active person, unless he tells us differently so that we can put it on record. The emails and everything come in you say no, in fact, you don’t have the pin number, the one that opens the emails. And it is your brother by the way, the one that you have given the company to, and you say you do not have the pin number and can’t have access to the emails. So, the relationship still exists. There are more artists now. That is what you are going to tell us for the record. Just talk to us about that part. I want it on record because it speaks about the relationship between you and Mr Chawla in between. There is the formal part of your relationship which is work related. There is this personal part now involving both you and your brother. Your brother is not here to answer, and we do not even want you to mention his name because he is not appearing before the Committee. What is important for us to understand is this relationship between you and your brother who is now running the company which has opened up because of your relationship with Mr Chawla. This matter is now haunting you. It is you that introduced this process to Mr Chawla. Mr Chawla can help this young man, but in between that you then hand over the company to your brother. Just talk to us about that and then we can close with you, because this will be the last lap we will be doing with you. Just talk to us about that company -- the handing over of it and how it is run, and for how long it has run, and then you can close it there.
Mr Kobese: The unfortunate thing is that when you run a company in the music business it is not like your day-to-day company that has been going around making a profit. A music business company can go for 15 years without even making a cent. That is the reality, and that is why many artists die poor even after they have been involved in the industry for long periods of time. What you need to understand is that artists generate money in two ways. The first way is through royalties, which are paid not by the company but by the broadcasters to the individual artists, not to the company. That means the person who makes the music -- if their music is played on radio or on TV -- that amount of royalties which is collected by the broadcaster it is then paid to the collective society. There are collective societies. The collective societies are then going to pay that money to the people who made the music directly. Artists also make money a second way through life performances, where they are booked. In South Africa, many artists don’t get booked. So, they will do free performances to promote their music. That is why, in the company I am running, I say it is social responsibility because from the time it was formed up until to date, not a single artist has made more than R5 000. All of those artists are surviving on handouts from my brother and myself, as none of them have ever been booked to perform in a paying event. What they do most of the time is to perform at non-paying events, which is a cost to us because it is a cost for them to get there. There is the cost of the food that they have to eat. So it is not a reality to say that we are running a company and making money. You can go to SARS -- we do a declaration. You can go to the CIPC -- we make a declaration annually. You can do a lifestyle audit on me. You can do a lifestyle audit on my brother and on all the artists involved. You will find nothing because there is not even a single cent that they have made. So, if I was in the position where you are putting me, and painting me to be in, I am sure by now I would have resigned. If I had benefited in any way from Mr Chawla, I am sure by now there should have been a lot of gigs through ANN7, or there should have been…
Chairperson: With respect, I am not painting you into anything -- we want the truth. Don’t come with suggestions that we are painting you. We are putting an allegation to you. It is you who brought the company up -- we did not know anything about the company. None of us knew that you ever registered a company. It is you that told us you had registered a company, so don’t come and tell us we are painting you when you know very well we have not gone to the CIPC to check on you. We have not done that, unless you want us to go check on you further. It is you that brought the story that you were doing this thing -- you met this young man and you ended up with Mr Chawla. It is not us. We just want you to tell us the story, and that is why we are listening to the story, so don’t put a blame on us for anything.
Mr Kobese: I am not putting a blame. How it moves from one person to another is because you come across people who are good. You want to extend your helping hand to help more. So we ended up with five artists and all of them come from poor backgrounds, and they thought that maybe we could assist them. The reality is that the reason why it was easy for people to approach me was because I had a long established relationship with big artists as friends. I was friends with Mandoza. I was friends with Bricks, with Mapaputsi -- so many big artists that are my friends -- so people knew that I had friends who were musicians and they thought through that I could get them connections into music. Unfortunately, it does not work that way. It doesn’t mean, by knowing people, that anyone who seeks to benefit through you is actually going to benefit. That is the reality I have experienced. Yes, we did meet with these people. All of them come from poor families and we are trying to assist them --that is what we are doing. There is nothing that they benefited from -- they don’t even have R10 in their accounts. That is the reality.
Mr Hoosen: The piece of music that was sent to Mr Chawla -- who was the artist?
Mr Kobese: Katara.
Mr Hoosen: What was his association with your company?
Mr Kobese: He was an artist, like I said.
Mr Hoosen: But you had five other artists. Why didn’t you send the other people’s music to Mr Chawla?
Mr Kobese: I will go back to the explanation that I have given. The name of the song was ‘African Nyololo.’ This was at the time when there was a celebration of Africa Month, so that was the reason -- the theme of that month was Africa Month. That was the only reason.
Mr Hoosen: Is that the reason the music was sent to him?
Mr Kobese: Yes, it was sent.
Mr Hoosen: But you weren’t supposed to know this because your brother sent it.
Mr Kobese: Remember, I said I went back to my brother and asked questions and got explanations. I said that from the beginning, even the last time I made a presentation.
Chairperson: The point is that both you and your brother were assisting artists, right? This is what you said now -- that the artists came from poor backgrounds so you were helping them. You set up a company to try and market their business, so I am not sure you have not broken the ties with the company, based on what you have just said. The impression we received earlier was that because of the conflict, you then decided to give it to your brother to run. We did not know about your relationship with the music, and that both you and your brother were running it. You were helping from your pocket. There is nothing wrong, and we can’t tell you to talk about it, but it is only an issue when the work that you do and the private business comes together. That is where the problems come -- either you make a choice to become a music promoter, and leave the Department alone. You are here. This conflict must end. You can’t run a department and at the same time have your music company. That is what kills, and why today you have to appear here on the Mr Chawla’s matter, and the described the relationship between you and Mr Chawla.
Mr Hoosen: When was the last time you had contact with Mr Chawla?
Mr Kobese: It would have been around 2016. I am sure.
Mr Hoosen: And you have not heard from him since the last time you appeared before the Committee?
Mr Kobese: No.
Chairperson: Thank you. I think the follow up was very robust today compared to the first day. We are not going to apologise that we were robust -- that is what you call oversight, free and soft flowing, that is robust oversight. We are able to probe further until you even confuse yourself and we are able to get to the truth. That is how Parliament operates, so if you are used to a Parliament where you bring annual reports and the Committee comes with a general statement that it is a clean report and we clap hands, those days are gone. You will see when we deal with the annual report of this Department. Gone are those days. Robust -- but very fair at the same time.
Thank you very much Mr Kobese for the engagement. I think we have been able to clarify your role on the transfers better than what we dealt with last time and that is why it was important for you to come back. The impression given last time is that both you and human resources somehow agreed on that transfer, but it is clear today that the problem with Mr Steyn was not there. The report that will come out will be very fair. This is not a small matter of oversight over documents. It is about the citizenship of the country. We will go all out in defence of the citizenship of this country. This case is not alone. There may be many cases, especially in this Department, where we know there are people who are selling permits. People carry Home Affairs stamps to their private homes. We know these are part of the problem, which is why we have so many people we cannot account for in this country. This case that we are dealing with it is one amongst thousands and thousands of cases of people who got citizenship fraudulently in this country. It is not isolated, and the fact that we are dealing with this matter at this level will help us to resolve some of the problems.
We will have to look at Mr Chawla and his citizenship. I have asked the DG to come back on the matter of Mr Chawla’s ID. We will have to look at a report on how he got South African citizenship. I am not saying this, because he is not here, but as part of the bigger investigation we are doing we cannot leave that issue aside, because it involves quite a number of people. Those who were invited during the launch of ANN7 -- we are not sure if all of them have gone back to India. If you look at the affidavits that Mr Sundaram posted, it is clear that some of them are still around in this country. They have not gone back, yet those companies have closed down and they are still in the country. Some of them came with visitors’ permits. Some of them came on inter-company transfers. It was just chaos, mismanagement and corruption, nothing else. Fraud and corruption is what we are dealing with here.
Those who were responsible for ANN7 are going to account for the people they brought into the country fraudulently. It is not only on citizenship -- we will have to deal with the recruitment of these people. I know a number of them who were identified, who were recruiting people from India. We know them, so we are going to be dealing with this exercise. So don’t think that this inquiry will only end with citizenship, as it has opened up a number of things.
Now we have Ms Nomzamo Mnyaka that we did not even know was involved in the process, and a number of people whose names are now coming up. Every day it is opening up new things. Colleagues have already proposed that we may look at how we call some people to come and explain. This person has become key with regard to the removal of Mr Steyn and the bringing in of Mr Christians. It tells you of the damage caused by these people in the name of bringing good business into the country, but we do not fear anything. As long as we are in Parliament we are going to make time available. I know it is hectic time, with the elections, but we are going to make time and clean up this matter. If we don’t finish, the next Parliament will find some work that we would have prepared for them to continue this work. We have to clean up.
On that note, thank you very much Mr Kobese for your time. We are still going to be interacting with you. It does not end here. As long as you are still employed by the state, we are going to interact with you, left and right. We have been told now that the foreign office has closed down, but we have not wanted to probe why it had closed down, or who was now in charge of the foreign office.
The meeting was adjourned for lunch.
Ms Nkidi Mohoboko, Deputy Director General: Human Resource Management and Development; Ms Charlotte Mocke; Chief Director, People Management; and Mr Jackie McKay, DDG: Immigration Services
Chairperson: I think we did well in the morning, as much as it has taken us more time on the basis of further probing and further probing. Both Mr Steyn and Mr Kobese were very helpful to the Committee today to help us to understand the processes that were followed, which confirms why it was necessary to have this second round. We are still going to study further the transcripts of the engagement from the first meeting both the research unit and the secretariat, and the legal services will go through those transcripts again. We have to deal now with human resources of the Department of Home Affairs.
I know that Mr Jackie McKay is not in HR, but the reason that we have put him together with Ms Mohoboko and Ms Mocke is to reconfirm the matters raised by Mr Kobese, together with Mr Christians. In our engagement earlier, we got to know of Ms Nomzamo Mnyaka as the person who was the first person to communicate to Mr Christians with regard to deployment and redeployment. In the submission that was made as the Chief Director, I don’t see her name anywhere and I am going to ask Mr McKay to elaborate more around the role of Ms Mnyaka and himself, because Mr Kobese came in at the level of a meeting between the DDG and Chief Director.
As we do that exercise, again, I will take a particular interest in who is in the office in Dubai, in the first level secretary, and where the Guptas are, and you may want to talk about any issues, there because they are now in Dubai. I have been made aware that somehow on 29 October last year, an email was sent to one of the senior officers of the Department from the office in Dubai with almost similar complaint, where an officer was about to be removed because of a complaint from certain people. I don’t want to deal with it now I will deal with it at another level, but I am just alerting you to know that in my position I am informed somehow that there is that particular arrangement again that requires the removal of a person in Dubai now because of non-cooperation. It may be an allegation, it may be true, but I am just throwing it. We will deal with it at some point as we proceed with our meeting today.
We have before us Ms Mohoboko, Mr McKay and Ms Mocke. I propose you all take an oath simultaneously, rather than taking it one by one. I want you to be on record because we are going to engage the three of you on immigration matters, and on human resources. I am going to ask you to give us your background. I have now picked up that Home Affairs even cuts across family members. Mr Kobese’s brother comes into it with links to Mr Chawla, and all of that. I am going to try to understand how best we can clean up. If any of you has a particular relationship with anyone that has to do with our work or anyone who compromised our systems, I want to know that. This has to do with cleaning up this Department and to get the right people to do the right job.
The Chairperson administered the oath, and Ms Mohoboko, Mr McKay and Ms Mocke took the oath.
Chairperson: I am going to start with a submission that was made by yourselves on 5 October 2015. This submission talks about the removal and redeployment of persons that are employed by the Department under your administration as human resources. This person then reported directly under DDG Immigration, who happened to be Mr McKay, and the rest of the people, the chief directors and the supervisors. We now all know that Mr Kobese was the supervisor responsible for such officers. I am going to ask you, DDG Ms Mohoboko, to talk to us about this submission. You can even go as far as reading this submission so that all of us know and understand what it is we are dealing with, and then we will identify each one of you and the role that you played in the process. On that note, I am going to start with you having to introduce yourselves.
Ms Mohoboko: My name is Nkidi Mohoboko. I am the Deputy Director General responsible for Human Resource Management and Development in the Department of Home Affairs. I was appointed on 1 May 2014. At that time the branch was still called the Learning Academy. After a few months, the Department decided to merge the two branches of the Learning Academy and Human Resource Management, and the branch is now called Human Resource Management and Development. I was given the responsibility to oversee the two branches, which means that the entire responsibility pertaining to recruitment, people acquisition, selection, placement, utilisation of people, discipline management, as well as capacity building and development, reside within my scope of work. I don’t know if that suffices.
Chairperson: That is fine.
Ms Mocke: My name is Charlotte Mocke. I joined the Department of Home Affairs on 1 May 2010 in the capacity of Chief Director: People Management and Development. In this capacity, I was responsible for what would generally be known as core human resources, which would be all your people acquisition processes, and staffing matters both temporary and permanent. I was responsible for performance management and certain strategic elements of the Skills Development Framework within the Department. as well as what we termed employee benefits, which was basically your entire core streams regarding salary, conditions of service and service benefits. As of 1 April 2016, in line with the merger that the DDG has just spoken about, the Performance Management and Skills Development functionality that resided in my portfolio moved to another chief director. So currently my title is People Management.
Chairperson: How many people are employed in your office?
Ms Mocke: Me and the office manager. There are two.
Chairperson: Who is your office Manager?
Ms Mocke: David Kambula.
Chairperson: How long has he been in your office?
Ms Mocke: David has been in my office probably since around July 2010.
Chairperson: The same as you?
Ms Mocke: I started in May 2010 and he started in July 2010.
Chairperson: Only one person works for you?
Ms Mocke: That is right.
Chairperson: Where was his employment before?
Ms Mocke: David and myself have known each other from the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA). When I joined SASSA in 2006 -- I think it might have been 1 February -- I appointed him there. He was my office manager from February 2007, and then when I joined Home Affairs he subsequently transferred over.
Chairperson: How did he get transferred so that he followed you to Home Affairs?
Ms Mocke: There was a request put forward.
Chairperson: By whom?
Ms Mocke: By me.
Ms Mocke: Prior to joining Home Affairs, I put in an inquiry to establish whether it would be possible for him to transfer with me from SASSA to Home Affairs, and there was an approval from within Home Affairs that was communicated back to me as such.
Chairperson: Why was there this interest to move with him?
Ms Mocke: I think probably because SASSA had a culture of allowing the executive management or senior managers to bring on board the office capacity or the staff of their choice to be able to adequately support and serve their offices. I think it was within that mindset, when I did move to Home Affairs, that I enquired whether it would be possible for him to take a transfer across. If it had been disapproved on the side of Home Affairs, I would have obviously relinquished that, but it was just an enquiry from my side and it was duly approved as such.
Chairperson: Who approved it?
Ms Mocke: I am not certain. I would assume it was perhaps the then HR DDG. I would need to go and check those records.
Chairperson: How many people are employed under your Directorate?
Ms Mocke: In my Chief Directorate?
Ms Mocke: We have 84 staff members.
Chairperson: How many males?
Ms Mocke: I would say our representation is probably quite balanced at about 50/50. At management level, we currently unfortunately have a little bit of imbalance because people have either left us or passed away, but I would say about 50/50.
Chairperson: Ms Mohoboko, can you talk to us again about you and your office?
Ms Mohoboko: In my office, I have several people that provide administrative support, and I will tell you now that they are four in number. The first one is Ms Artarm Bandard (*spelling not verified), who has just recently joined us as a secretary, level 8. She has previously been a secretary for the previous Gauteng Provincial Manager, and she requested a transfer from Gauteng to Pretoria due to personal family matters. Secondly, I have Mr Modise Mohloko (*spelling not verified), who is the Deputy Director responsible for finance and project administration in the office of the DDG.
Chairperson: Who is this one? Where does he come from? How long has he been in the position? Since when has the secretary been employed?
Ms Mohoboko: She has been in our employ since late last year. I would have to check the exact month. She is fairly new in the office, but she has been with the Department for years in the Gauteng Province.
Chairperson: And the next person?
Ms Mohoboko:, I found Mr Mohloko in the Department when I joined in 2014. I would ask my colleagues to find for me the exact record when he started with his employment.
Chairperson: So, you don’t know the people that you work with?
Ms Mohoboko: I know the people that I work with. I have not checked what dates they started in Home Affairs, as I found all of them in the Department already. The third one is Ms Bele (*spelling not verified), who I also found having served the previous DDG of HR as the Assistant Director of Administration in the office of the DDG. I will also have to confirm her date of assumption of duty, but I am told she has been in the Department for years. The last one is Ms Mandalay Dilanga (*spelling not verified), who also has been in the Department. I found all of them in the office of the DDG HR. Ms Dilanga is responsible as Assistant Director Finance and Support.
Chairperson: Amongst your staff that are immediately with you, who comes from Water Affairs? Is there any person who was employed at Water Affairs?
Ms Mohoboko: In the past, when I was still DDG Learning Academy, I had a Personal Assistant called Mr Albert Witboy who was recruited from Home Affairs, but he has since moved. He is no longer in my office.
Chairperson: He was recruited from Home Affairs or Water Affairs?
Ms Mohoboko: Sorry, from Water Affairs. He was in Water Affairs. He is now the Assistant Director in Change Management. They requested that transfer, saying that studies were along that line and he felt that he could be better utilised in that area. I am sure you will appreciate that when the two branches merged there would have been a lot of duplication because he was a secretary before, so we couldn’t keep all of them in the administrative space. The Department decided then to redeploy them in more meaningful roles.
Chairperson: Why did he leave Water Affairs?
Ms Mohoboko: He applied for the job.
Chairperson: Do you know why he left Water Affairs?
Ms Mohoboko: I know that he applied for the job, like all other people apply.
Chairperson: No, I am asking you a question.
Ms Mohoboko: I do not have an answer to that.
Chairperson: You don’t have an answer. That is fine. I will deal with it later. That’s okay. I’ll tell you the reason for these questions that I have asked clarity on about the individuals that are employed there. We will deal with it later as we wrap up the meeting. Let us then come back to your role in regard to this transfer of people before the memorandum. Just share with this Committee how you deal with transfers, specifically at the level of Mr Christians and Mr Steyn. You can then give me the general approach and the process that gets embarked on in that regard. Can you take us through that?
Ms Mohoboko: Insofar as the transfer of Mr Steyn to move from New Delhi to Germany was concerned, HR found a request from our line function, which is Immigrations, to saying they needed assistance to transfer this individual from one mission to the other. I must say that the role and function of appointing, deploying, utilising and managing human resources in foreign missions is a function that resides with Immigrations in the space of Foreign Office Coordination. HR as an enabler and supportive branch assists all other branches who have similar requests where they want to recruit a person or transfer or deploy, whether in or out. So we provide that administrative support. Our role in the process is to ensure that the request that is being made by Immigration is in line with applicable legislation, and I will talk to the legislation later. Secondly, it is also to check and to verify with the structure, because we are custodians of the organisational structure. We are supposed to check with the structure whether that post really does exist, if it is vacant and is funded, and at the right level. So all those checks and balances is what HR does and checks. We also have to make sure that the incumbents that are being talked about in the submission really meet the criteria, because there are set criteria on who you can and cannot appoint in a foreign mission. In the checking of whether they meet the suitability criteria, we need to verify through different means, one of those being to check the qualifications, to check the personal suitability, whether it be vetting and all of that, and that role is the responsibility of the branch called Counter Corruption and Security Services. What we normally do in all matters of recruitment, where there is a requirement or need to vet certain people, we handle the request through that branch -- we don’t do it ourselves. We have to make sure that those checks and balances are taken care of as requested by my client.
I regard my colleague, Mr Jackie McKay, as my client because he wanted those types of services. Also, he needed to check with HR -- I am sure he will testify to that -- whether the transfer of Mr Steyn could be done within the applicable legislation. Through the testimony that will come through Ms Mocke, she will testify to what extent we did our checks and balances to come to that determination. My role in the submission was having verified and ascertained whether there was need to do this and whether the incumbent met the requirements, I needed to make a recommendation to the DG. That is why I appended my signature there. My signature in that submission was to confirm that indeed there was a post that existed, it was funded, and that it was at the right level, and this person met the selection criteria to go there, and that is what I did. All that I did was based on the recommendation that would have happened at levels below me, and that is why I have Ms Mocke with me to testify to the Committee what she checked and what legislation she found as enablers to give us guidance in that regard.
Chairperson: Tell me your role when you ended up having to write the memo? What informed the memo and the process of generating this memo?
Ms Mohoboko: As I briefly indicated in my previous response, that having received a request from DDG Immigrations to say that as a branch they needed to move one individual from this mission to that mission, they therefore needed assistance from HR to help them do that because right now writing memos of appointment and all of that was not within their technical capacity. So they requested our assistance to do it. Ordinarily, it would have been themselves doing it, but at that time we had a gentleman called Mr Wesane Hlangwane, who has since passed on. He was the Director: People Acquisition, and he came in handy in assisting us in drafting this memo and putting together information in collaboration with the branch. Specifically, my personal role was to quality check the memo and to make sure I made the recommendation to the DG.
Chairperson: Let’s hear you at what point do you came in, Ms Mocke. How did you come into the process?
Ms Mocke: If you have a look at paragraph 5 in the submission, there is actually a reference made to a meeting that Mr McKay and I had towards the end of August 2015. It cites my name in the submission. Basically, what happened is towards the end of August, or very early in September perhaps, I received a request for a meeting from Mr McKay. Mr McKay needed assistance with regard to transfers that needed to be done within or between the missions. So, I had gone to his office and when we had the meeting, he briefly explained to me the circumstances that were being faced within the mission, which were indicated in the submission.
Chairperson: Can we go into those circumstances?
Ms Mocke: I will read them for you at paragraph 5 of the submission.
Chairperson: I am sorry that today my approach is different from the last meeting. You will see that my approach is too calm, and now I am going to be taking you for surprises. This is outside the strategy the Committee has developed. Time and time again, I will have to change gear. So, this is the gear we are in now.
Ms Mocke: I would like to say again, that sometime between the end of August and early September in 2015 I received a request from Mr McKay, who was the DDG Immigration Services, to meet with him to discuss a matter which had been referred to him, which was the transfer of staff within the missions. We had a meeting. It was just Mr McKay and myself. We sat down briefly and during that meeting he explained to me the circumstances that were prevailing within the New Delhi mission. He painted a scenario of circumstances that were happening in New Delhi which were captured in the submission. During the meeting, Mr McKay explained to me that there were certain challenges that were faced in the New Delhi mission. The current incumbent of the position would need to be transferred. A decision to that effect had been taken -- that the incumbent be transferred out of the mission. A replacement capacity would have to be put into the mission. At that point in time, the names of Mr Christians and Mr Mgabe were mentioned. Like I said, the officials who would leave New Delhi were not mentioned, and it was probably because we manage the payroll in our Department, and I would be able to track who the incumbents of those positions were. But I just want to say the names of Mr Steyn and that other lady were not tabled at the meeting.
The circumstances that were explained or put to me were that there were serious backlogs within the New Delhi mission, and that interventions had been put into place already by the Department to try and clear the backlog, but that these interventions were failing to succeed. A decision had been taken that the incumbents of the positions needed to transferred out of New Delhi and replaced by the two officials that I have mentioned, Mr Christians and Mr Mgabe. Mr McKay’s enquiry to me was a simple one. As you have heard during the day, the Chief Director: Foreign Office Coordination, functioned very independently in terms of managing its capacitation and staff. There were also memorandums of agreement between the Department in this unit and DIRCO on discipline and performance, on how this relationship would work between Home Affairs and DIRCO and the head of missions, which was outside the immediate functional responsibility of the branch HR. So that unit had its operations and had it systems. The reason why Mr McKay consulted me on this matter was not because the Chief Director of Foreign Offices Coordination did not have a policy which governed the management of staff within missions or the capacitation of missions -- indeed there was, and we have included a copy of that policy in the pack. It is a departmental policy called “A Policy on the Placement of Employees in Missions Abroad,” which was signed 2014. There was a policy which managed these matters. In the context of this policy, the intermission transfer of the incumbents of the posts would be able to be facilitated, so that was not a problem.
The problem, or the challenge, was that the two officials who would need to be placed in the New Delhi mission were identified as officials who were within the borders of South Africa, so it was not an intermission transfer process that could be used to take them to New Delhi. The current policy on the placement of employees abroad did not cater for this scenario. It did not express itself in the capacitation of missions through any methodology other than within one’s four-year duty to a cycle. I need to just indicate that one’s placement in a mission abroad runs in four year cycle, so every two years prior to a new cycle we would commences as HR to support the branch through putting out advertisements, facilitation and management of a full recruitment process. However, this request crossed us around 18 to 20 months after the recruitment process, so the current duty cycle had closed. This is where the confusion or the lack of clarity on the side of the branch Immigration Services came in. If that was the decision that had been taken to move RSA-based staff into the missions, on what basis could it be done? The question from Mr McKay to me was legislatively based. Was this doable in terms of the law?
I need to make it very clear that at this point in time, during the meeting that I had with Mr McKay, it was absolutely clear that the decision to do the relocation of staff had been taken. That was not a matter of conversation. It was not a matter that was open to negotiation. It was not a matter on which the branch was requesting input, contribution, validation or assistance. The decision had been taken and the question was if this was legally doable. Could it be done in terms of law? I said to Mr McKay that in terms of the policy on the placement of employees in missions abroad, although the policy did not pronounce on the specific scenario, that when one read the policy and looked at the base legislation in terms of which it had been developed, it was in fact doable. It was not irregular or unlawful within the four year duty term cycle to transfer staff from South Africa into a mission outside of the recruitment process because that cycle had closed. The policy did make provision for it.
I also want to emphasis to the Committee Members that there was confusion on the side of branch Immigration, because this specific situation with which it was confronted was not spelt out clearly in the policy so that they could read it. I would like to direct your attention to page 17 of the policy, which is paragraph 12. The policy does cater for transfers within the context of missions. Firstly, it says that in the beginning of the four-year duty tour, we would follow the recruitment process -- the normal process of putting out an advert and things like that. Then within the duty tour, changes can be made. Paragraph 9.9 of the policy makes provision for employer-initiated movement within the missions, but also that employees that are in a hardship mission can after a two-year period request to be placed in a mission that would not be classified as a hardship mission. So while you were abroad, you would be able to do transfers within, but this specific situation of within the duty tour taking an employee from the country into a mission outside of a recruitment process, that is where the clarity was sought. If you go to paragraph 12 of the policy, I would like to read for you this specific section.
Chairperson: We don’t have it in the file but I am going to allow you to read it. We must get copies prepared.
Ms Mocke: The heading is Deviations. “Policy provisions that are not covered in this policy shall be dealt with in terms of legislation prescripts that supersede this policy as stipulated.” When one goes to paragraph four of this policy, it actually outlines the legislation and prescripts that supersede the policy. I would like to specifically read to you paragraph 4 of the policy, which refers to the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, the Public Service Act, and the Public Service Regulations 2001 as amended. When I looked at the Act and the regulations, as well as the deviation clause, on grounds of my interpretation of this legislative framework that underpinned this policy I indicated to Mr McKay that indeed the transfer of officials from South Africa to the mission abroad could be facilitated in terms of the legislation, the Public Service Act read with the regulations. If permitted I would gladly read the relevant sections of the Public Service Act. It is not a lot but I think it is important for the sake of the Committee.
She read section 8 (a) of the Public Service Act.
Ms Mocke: One of the forms of deployment is in terms of section 14 of the Act. The section of the Act provides executive authority with the authority to be able to transfer staff.
She read section 14 of the Public Service Act.
Ms Mocke: I just need to mention to the Committee that in 2015 we were doing quite a lot of work around a new transfer policy within the borders of South Africa specifically because we had a situation where more and more staff were starting to initiate requests for their own transfer for economic reasons, to be closer to families. So there was a lot of effort and sensitivity awareness on the matter of transfers and a lot of research done personally by myself at that point in time. Within the context of that work that was done, public interest was defined within the Department, as service delivery operational requirements were what we would look at when considering public interest. I said to Mr McKay, this was the base legislation that informed the policy. Yes, the specific scenario of taking staff in the middle of a duty tour cycle was not covered in the policy, but it would be covered by virtue of the legislation.
Chairperson: What was the discussion then? I hear you on your policy. The discussion was on policy. What were the problems then that necessitated this transfer? You have identified three options of transfer, but none of those areas gives us the details. What was the problem? Are we dealing with someone who gives problems in a particular mission? Take us through that discussion about problems, and the reasons therefore of transferring this person?
Ms Mocke: The context that was described to me by Mr McKay was the following. He indicated that there were backlogs within the mission, and that this was affecting the relationship with the head of the mission and obviously with the client in relation to that. He indicated that interventions had been put into place, that there had been teams put in to try and clear the backlogs, and work on some of these matters. However, they were not proving successful, and relationships had become strained in the mission to the extent that they were at breaking point. What you see in the submission is what was said to me during the meeting between Mr McKay and myself, and that it was negatively affecting service delivery. What I want to say to the Committee right here is that Mr McKay gave me that information as a background towards assisting him in finding the right mechanisms through which to do the transfer.
Chairperson: Was that information written information, or was it verbal?
Ms Mocke: No, it was verbal information that was provided by Mr McKay. Like we said previously – and the DDG also alluded to it -- this was actually a matter that the branch and Chief Director: Foreign Office Coordination (FOC) could have run with themselves. The only reason why HR was brought in at this point in time was because of the lack of clarity when they read the policy against this scenario. They were unable to bring it together, and with HR being the custodians of the Public Service Act in general, we were able to do the interpretation and analysis for them. So, when Mr McKay and I had that meeting I gave him the legislation. The next question he asked me was what process needed to be followed for an approval. I indicated to him that there would have to be a written submission, fully motivated, put forward to the Minister, because in terms of the Act the Minister, the executive authority, was the one who would do the transfer between missions. You didn’t have a delegation for the scenario because it was not covered in the policy, therefore one had to take it back to the process owner, which would be the Minister by law. You would put a submission together. You would write to the Minister. You would provide the information that was required. I also emphasised the necessity of consultation with the affected official, and that the process would need to be done as soon as a decision had been finally made.
I just want to take a moment here to mention also that although the decision had clearly been taken that transfers needed to be done out of the New Delhi office, there was not a total confirmation given to me at that meeting that these were the individuals that would be transferred in. I need to state up front. Management was clearly still applying its mind to the scenario. There were two names tabled -- Mr Christians and Mr Mgabe -- but nowhere did I get the impression that it was definitely going to be these two officials because there was still work happening in the background. I did emphasis to Mr McKay that consultation needed to take place by law. Again, Mr McKay asked me if HR would be in a position to assist in drafting the submission. HR was not taking over the FOC responsibility -- this was a scenario they had not dealt with previously, and he felt more comfortable in having HR as a partner with them in the process. But typically, if FOC had been able to do that interpretation, it should have been able to run with the submission totally independently. However, because Mr McKay requested it, I said to him as HR we would be happy to help to craft the submission. However, it was not HR’s submission. I then assigned the responsibility to…
Chairperson: Say that again.
Ms Mocke: The submission was not initiated by HR. I want to use that language because that is the language that was used this morning. HR did not initiate this submission. The request, everything you see in this document before you, was initiated by the branch Immigration. If I had said to Mr McKay, I’m sorry we don’t have hands to help you, HR would never even would have come into play, which is always the case with the capacitation of foreign missions regardless of whether it is internal, performance management, or even disciplinary related matters. The branch within the Chief Directorate Foreign Coordination runs its process and will ask us to assist as and when required, but they have been quite capable. What made this situation different was that in the policy that the branch was reading they could not pick up the enabler for this situation to be managed, but this was not an HR submission. HR did not initiate this entire process. HR provided legal advice, or advice on the legal enablers, and then Mr McKay had asked us to please assist in putting the submission together. I said we gladly would. So, that is why also if you have a look at the signatories on the submission, the very first signatory is that of the process owner, which is the branch Immigration Services, despite the enquiry being Direct People Acquisition.
When I had given Mr McKay the undertaking that we would assist Immigration in preparing the submission after that meeting, I assigned the matter to the Director: People Acquisition, Mr Hlongwane, to run with that process directly with the branch. But I made it clear to Mr Hlongwane we would need to receive a final confirmation from the branch as to exactly what direction was going to be taken in this regard. There was a decision that there needed to be transfers and movements, but there wasn’t a clear decision on who would necessarily provide the capacitation. When I assigned the responsibility to Mr Hlongwane to support the branch on this matter, I indicated to him that it was important that we needed to get the final confirmation from the branch as to the staff who would be moved, so that we could make sure when he typed the submission it was the right information. I then left the process with the Director: People Acquisition, who was more than capable to run with the process because I was then heavily invested in other investigations with the Public Service Commission at that point in time. This was not a difficult or complicated assignment. Mr Hlongwane was more than capable to assist.
After my meeting with Mr McKay, Mr Hlongwane did however approach me on one occasion and he was frustrated. He said to me, “Charlotte, you said we needed to assist the branch, and we need to try and help them to do this as quickly as possible, but I am unable to deliver on this matter. I can’t assist the branch.” I asked him why not, and he said to me that I had said to him he needed to wait for the signing of the final confirmation of who was going where from the brunch. He was unable to get that clarity, because at that point in time there were conflicting messages received by HR from within the branch Immigration Services. The mandate that Mr McKay had provided vis-a-vis what was coming in from Mr Kobese’s side was not aligned to one another.
Chairperson: The information that was coming from Major Kobese, plus the information from Mr McKay -- was it in writing, or just verbal engagements?
Ms Mocke: It was verbal engagements.
Chairperson: What was his Mr Hlongwane’s frustration? It is very important because we are trying to understand Major Kobese, who said, “I did not know that there were problems. I am shocked. I did raise my concerns.” And Mr McKay said, “Here, implement, we want this thing to happen.” Is that where we are now?
Ms Mocke: Yes.
Chairperson: Okay, just talk to us about that part, please.
Ms Mocke: I want to take a quick step back and say that before this submission was finalised and routed, Mr Kobese was already involved in the process.
Chairperson: What was he doing there?
Ms Mocke: Like I indicated at the time when I had a conversation with Mr McKay, there was a decision that transfers were going to happen, but there wasn’t totally clarity as to who would be the final choices of staff to move in. So when I left that meeting, I assigned the matter to Mr Hlongwane and made it clear to him that we needed to wait for that final confirmation from the branch’s side when they had done the post-to-person matching, and they would confirm who would be able to be put in. Mr McKay had provided the particulars of an individual that needed to be transferred into the mission. I wish I could remember it as if it was yesterday. But Mr Kobese was putting forward another name. So, there was a conflict over the names that needed to go in. If I remember and recall, and I am speaking under correction, I think there wasn’t a conflict necessarily with regard to Mr Christians. I think the conflict was in regard to Mr Mgabe his deployment out, which is why it was duly put in the submission at paragraph seven of this submission, where we try to capture the essence of what had been happening. My understanding was that possibly Mr Kobese was putting forward Mr Mgabe, whereas Mr McKay was of a different opinion on the placement of Mr Mgabe into the mission. If I may read paragraph seven for record purposes?
She read paragraph seven of the submission.
Ms Mocke: When Mr Hlongwane brought the conflict to my attention, I immediately directed myself to the head of the branch who had had the conversation with me, and had requested us to assist. I took the phone and called Mr McKay with Mr Hlongwane present. I said to him, we have a challenge here in that you have asked us to help your branch prepare a submission, but we are not able to finalise that submission because between the information I have gotten from you which I relayed to Mr Hlongwane, and what Mr Hlongwane is receiving from Major Kobese, there seems to be a difference in opinion on who needs to be deployed. As a result of that, Mr Hlongwane is not able to finalise the submission so you need to please tell me, Mr McKay, whose names goes into the submission on grounds of the assessment done in your branch. Who is it that we are putting forward? At that point, Mr McKay then confirmed to me that Mr Mgabe would not be going for this reason, and that the other lady mentioned in the submission would be deployed out. He gave me that confirmation, and it was put into the submission handed to Mr McKay. I just want to mention that the DDG had spoken about the validations and checks that were to be done by HR. Those were all done, but the substantive report that would be prepared around the findings in the missions would have been something that would have come from branch Immigration and not have been prepared in HR space, because we were almost a secretariat service in this regard.
Chairperson: Detail how the problem of backlogs and service delivery came about, because I want us now to go to paragraph five of the submission. We did not know of the conflicts that were coming up now. Talk to us about this and the point on consultation that you raised -- that as much as the policy agreed for internal transfers, but there must be consultation with the incumbent. The incumbent we are dealing with here is Mr Steyn. Talk to me about that process, because this is part of your submission, that you will then have to say you have consulted with Mr Steyn and he is willing to go to Munich. It is about family. He has prepared himself to be there for four years, and now you are cutting him off. Talk to us about that.
Ms Mocke: On the matter of consultation it is something that is required by law and I did belabour the point with Mr McKay to make sure that process unfolded. At the time, within the Department the consultation process was not met -- whether it would be an approval or pre-approval process. It wasn’t defined. So when Mr Steyn mentioned this morning that he had received a telephone call from Ms Mnyaka, considering the locality and the distance between Mr Steyn and Ms Mnyaka, she would not had been able to call him into meeting, give him a cup of tea and say let us talk about the matter. In my Chief Directorate, a consultation would generally be a face-to-face engagement, but this would not be possible when you were having to consult missions abroad. When Mr Steyn mentioned this morning that he had received a telephone call from Ms Mnyaka, I identified that as perhaps part of a consultation process.
Chairperson: That said, we are going to deploy you, are you willing to go to Munich? Keep it quiet, we will call you back. Is that what you call a consultation process? Keep it quiet, don’t say anything and then the next message that comes is now pack your bags and go.
Ms Mocke: No, but what I am saying is I was not privy to that, but I identified an element that would generally happen in the consultation process to say that there had been a need identified for a relocation, and you had been identified. I would have asked a lot more questions if I were Mr Steyn, to be very honest, when she made the telephone call to Mr Steyn and asked him if he would be interested in moving to Munich. I said before that we did not define whether it should happen before or after the approval, but I can associate with perhaps the attempt she was making. I am not saying it was a proper consultation process, but I understand what she was trying to achieve.
Chairperson: But you were working on the premise that a decision had already been taken?
Ms Mocke: Yes, that’s right.
Chairperson: That like it or don’t like it, Mr Steyn was going?
Ms Mocke: That’s it. I also don’t know where in this whole decision process that call came in to Mr Steyn, because I wouldn’t be aware.
Chairperson: So, in your engagements with Mr McKay, did he say he had consulted and said a decision had been taken in the branch, and at what level? Did you ask, because these are Ministerial responsibilities? Did it mean therefore that Mr McKay had engaged with the Minister in making a final decision -- is this how you understand it?
Ms Mocke: I do recall that Mr McKay had indicated to me in that meeting that the Minster had been witness to some of the circumstances at the mission. He had been there personally and had born testimony to the problems, which is why I think I had a greater sense of comfort around the matter. Let us assume Ms Mnyaka had not made the call to Mr Steyn at all. That would still have been fine. The submission would have been routed, and we would have logged then that the consultation needed to take place. When the submission was approved, there was a transfer letter that would be issued by HR within Mr Hlongwane’s space, and that transfer letter would give you, as the employee, the opportunity to accept or decline. The moment you would decline was when you would start to log your reservations, and HR would get a very good dipstick of whether proper and thorough consultation had taken place. We actually have a copy of the letter which was accepted by Mr Steyn for that transfer. Although it is always best practice that you would have that engagement with your staff member, because it is the right thing to do, if it had come loose a little bit in the process and not all managers are equally seasoned, we did have this process where we issue that letter, and it gives the employee the opportunity to accept and decline. The moment you would have a decline, or a decline or acceptance with reservations, then clearly there would be a need for a far broader and more robust engagement with the official with regard to the specific matter.
Chairperson: Where is the letter that was sent to Mr Steyn where he approved this redeployment? I don’t see it in the file here. What does that letter of redeployment say? Does it say anything about problems? Can you read that letter for us?
Ms Mocke: Certainly.
She read the letter dated November 2015.
Chairperson: So everybody was happy. It was a deployment and there were no problems? Is there anywhere where you bring to light the problems Mr Steyn was causing in New Delhi in the whole engagement of this exercise? Is there anywhere where Mr Steyn is alerted about his problems?
Ms Mocke: Not from the branch of Human Resources. That would have been dealt with in the Foreign Office Coordination space.
Chairperson: Where would Mr Steyn have been notified or made aware of the service delivery issues, and his involvement in the problem? You have correctly said that disciplinary processes were dealt within the branch generally, not under Human Resources It means that Mr McKay would have to talk to us about those areas. Here we are dealing with matters of policy, the law, and the application of the law with regard to the transfer of such individuals. Is there anything you still want to say before I give my Members the opportunity to engage with you? I still want you to proceed. What informs paragraph five now then that you have given me this background? I was trying to push you to talk to the problems. It seems to me they are not there, other than a decision had been taken. What then informed this paragraph five?
Ms Mocke: Paragraph five is a verbal account. It is basically a synopsis of what happened in the meeting between Mr McKay and myself. I am going to read it quickly.
She read paragraph two, three, and five of the submission.
Ms Mocke: This was a verbatim account of what happened in the meeting between Mr McKay and myself. It was drafted by HR for the branch as a courtesy, and the necessary support or supporting information which may have been required would still need to have been attached by the branch.
Chairperson: And they did not have that information?
Ms Mocke: Not during the time of the meeting.
Chairperson: So, it was just hearsay from Mr McKay telling you of the problems there?
Ms Mocke: Yes.
Chairperson: There was no written record?
Ms Mocke: No, there was no written record.
Chairperson: He was saying this was how the matters were in the New Delhi office, the problems they had identified, the problem that Mr Steyn was causing there, the head of the mission was not happy about the following, and these were the interventions that they had tried to do to help the situation. The conclusion made to redeploy was after they had done everything, and it was a fair process of transferring?
Ms Mocke: Yes.
Chairperson: Would you have subjected the incumbent to some form of disciplinary hearing with your understanding of HR and HR law, and the requirements of the law?
Ms Mocke: Yes.
Chairperson: Because this is a serious allegation that we are dealing with, by the way.
Ms Mocke: Absolutely.
Chairperson: Of misconduct.
Ms Mocke: Absolutely.
Chairperson: Failure to provide service.
Ms Mocke: Yes.
Chairperson: Did you advise them?
Ms Mocke: I would like to make it clear that the complexion of this meeting with the branch was not one in which the problem was outlined and telling us what we should do. That was not the complexion. If that was the nature of my engagement with Mr McKay, there were many things we could have done. It was a case of a decision had been taken on the grounds of the process that had been followed. Could we do the transfer, and was it legal? That was the question.
Chairperson: Give us input, Ms Mohoboko.
Ms Mohoboko: I was partially covered by her very last statement. I wanted to put it on record that there was no disciplinary case with regard to Mr Steyn on this matter, because I heard in the morning when Chairperson was making an opening remark that there was disciplinary hearing that had taken place. I wanted to put it on record that there was no disciplinary process that was handled.
Ms Dambuza: I think this information brings everything that transpired to light in my view. I wanted to check what the standard practice in the Department was. To me, it is a serious allegation when a person comes to my office and tells me that a member of staff has got a problem in terms of performance that could jeopardise service delivery. That is very critical for all the officials in the Department, especially the senior personnel. A senior member of another branch brings such a critical allegation about the staff, and it does not matter whatever branch that staff belongs to at the end of the day, human resources becomes critical in making sure that those workers perform and that if there are problems, they are addressed. For instance, if there are problems of capacity, they must ensure that capacity is provided for those workers. I don’t see that there is a formal or official presentation for us to act on. I don’t want to say it is gossip, but you know it is really gossiping to listen to such a serious matter. Yes, I understand you did your best by advising. I understand your case where you are saying a decision had already been made, which meant there was a big question mark over that matter, but we are not yet there. We are on the matter that somebody, a senior person from another branch, comes to your office with verbal information. What is the standard practice? I would like to check if you would consider that the phone call that was made by Ms Mnyaka to Mr Steyn was consultation, because you were listening to Mr Steyn when he was saying she was just briefing him but not to tell anyone as it was still something that was not official. I fully agree with you that it is not easy for the people who are abroad to bring them to your office, but I believe there is a way of dealing with consultation with such people. If you were listening, that was not consultation but I would like to have your view. Having listened to what was said by Mr Steyn, would you consider that was a proper consultation? The other questions I am going to reserve for the person who was taking decisions, the executive authority, I am not going to put those questions to you. I think the taking of a decision before an investigation is a big deal, but it is not your concern.
Chairperson: Both of you may respond.
Ms Mohoboko: In Ms Mocke’s presentation earlier on, she said that the management of staff in foreign missions is handled very differently from the staff that are internal in the Department. I want to start there, because ordinarily if it was a standard process inside the Department where this person reports to a particular manager within the Department, we would have provided advice on the lines of an organisational development (OD) intervention. She made mention of time and study, where OD would have been deployed to go and check the foreign mission to see whether the real performance deficiencies that had been identified were as a result of either negligence on the part of incumbent, or a lack of skill or knowledge where training would have been introduced, or whether it was just ill-discipline. If it was ill-discipline, where it resulted in disciplinary conduct, a disciplinary case would then unfold. In this instance, the MOU that the Department of Home Affairs had with DIRCO was such that the people that were located in foreign missions had a direct reporting relationship with the head of the mission and therefore the head of the mission oversees the performance management in that space. So, performance management and development should have kicked in if we were inside the Department. We would have said, this is how you manage poor performance, but in this case it was a different scenario which did not give us the right to go into that space.
My understanding of what Ms Mocke said is that the intervention that Mr McKay asked for, saying as her client he wanted her to help, was to help in the space of the transfer, not any other intervention. Had it been a normal instance where we were dealing with poor performance, we have different tools available. Where it is poor performance, we institute a personal development plan with specific deliverables that are timed to say that by this time, all these things should have happened, but in this case it was totally different scenario.
Mr Gumede: Here is a scenario of Mr Steyn who has not finished his term, and who is having his immediate supervisor saying that there is no problem, and somebody in South Africa says there is a problem. That is my correct understanding. Far away from New Delhi, somebody in South Africa says there is a problem, whereas the immediate supervisor says there is no problem. I would like to have clarity on that matter. Secondly, because these are connected, the matter of security clearance, and top secret vetting. Home Affairs is under the security cluster for one to obtain top secret vetting. Among the very important things is your relationship with foreign agencies and who you interact with at them, and secondly how you use your money, because otherwise you become a major risk to the country. But now you deploy this person without the top secret vetting, and then you deploy them prematurely. What do you think the motives were?
Ms Mocke: On the first question, can I obtain clarity from you? You have indicated that we have Mr Steyn and an immediate supervisor who has said there was no problem that the incumbent in South Africa says there is. Can I just understand who would be that immediate supervisor, because Mr Kobese this morning said he was the immediate supervisor, but Mr Steyn said he also reported to the head of mission? In order to assist me with the response, who would that person be then?
Mr Gumede: Mr Kobese said he was the immediate supervisor. That is my reference point.
Ms Mohoboko: I will continue to refer back to the manner we do things in this instance. The direct relations in terms of reporting when the person is located abroad in a foreign mission, is that they report to the head of the mission. In that case, the head of the mission would be better placed at that place and that area to tell us how the performance of the individual is. Administratively, I am sure they would still report to the FOC on other matters pertaining to being in the mission and all that, but the actual doing of the work would be better accounted for by a person who is closer to them in terms of proximity. I am sure Mr Steyn is still here he would testify that he reported to the head of the mission. From what I am recollecting now, this is the second or third hearsay from what Mr McKay had said that the head of the mission had indicated through the Minister, and then DDG Mr McKay had got to know that they were not happy with his performance. As HR, it would have been easier for me to understand if that report came from a person that saw the day-to-day operations. When we spoke to Mr McKay later on, he indicated that they even had to send intervention teams to go and really verify at the mission whether it would be true. I am sure he will talk to it later this afternoon if given an opportunity. I was hoping we would give him the opportunity to relate that story, to say why that story was more believable than the one we just got today from Mr Kobese, that the performance was okay. What we were told as HR was that the performance in the mission and the complaints from the clients and the backlog had been severe, but what had not come to us was that the poor performance was a result of this one particular individual. I have reason to believe that I think there was already a backlog building up in the mission prior to even Mr Steyn going there, and I would like Mr McKay to allude to that later on.
Mr Gumede: Perhaps if I was managing that department I would have gone to my supervisor to get his or her version. What was the supervisor’s version?
Chairperson: Maybe that question can be answered properly by Mr McKay. Just hold that question. We will come back to it when we have Mr McKay on the stand.
Ms Mocke: Are we referring to Mr Christians’ deployment to New Delhi without a security clearance?
Mr Gumede: Whereas that was a requirement.
Ms Mocke: I would like to indicate that Mr Christians was not deployed to New Delhi before he had his security clearance. He was given his security clearance in February 2016, and his deployment to New Delhi took place only in March 2016.
Chairperson: But there had been a request that he be deployed without a security clearance. There was a request?
Ms Mocke: Yes there was, but it never materialised.
Chairperson: Why would it be that such a request was made that a person gets a deployed without a security clearance? Have we had instances where officials were deployed without a security clearance? I am taking it from the list that Mr Chawla is in possession of. I think by now you aware of what we are talking about when I talk about that list of all senior officials, with their salaries, grades, the number of children they have, the rentals they pay, the houses where they are staying. Mr Chawla, a private person, is in possession of that information. I am saying that out of all these officials all over the world, is there anywhere we have a situation where officials are deployed without top security clearance? If so, where and when did it happen?
Ms Mohoboko: I will attempt to answer that complex question from a HR perspective only. I am sure that the branch Immigrations would be better positioned to give a detailed response. The standard practice in Human Resource and Development is that we do not recommend any placements without the security clearance certificate. We insist on the obtainment of that, prior to a submission. It should be part of the submission. It is one of the annexures that they have to submit with the submission to the Minister to say that now he may approve.
Chairperson: In this case, this was not done, because the submission was made on 5 October to the Minister, and did not have a security clearance attached to it.
Ms Mocke: In paragraph six it is mentioned.
Chairperson: What does it say?
She read paragraph six of the submission.
Ms Mocke: It is a DIRCO requirement that staff moving abroad need to be in possession of a valid security clearance. I don’t see how this Department would have been able to put an employee in a mission abroad without either having produced the security clearance or having engaged DIRCO around that requirement.
Chairperson: Was there a sexual harassment case against Mr Christians?
Ms Mohoboko: I put it on record that in all our records, we do not have that. I checked the data base of the head office as well as in the provinces where he was located even today, and there was nothing, not a record.
Chairperson: He is a clean person, and you don’t know anything about it?
Ms Mohoboko: Yes.
Chairperson: It was an allegation that does not hold water?
Ms Mohoboko: Yes.
Ms Dambuza: Do you mean there is not certificate that is issued by the security clearance department to you, yourselves? They perform their responsibility, but is there any letter that came from that unit to say they adhered?
Chairperson: If you are aware of the engagements between DIRCO and the branch, the DG of DIRCO did not approve of such deployment on the request to waiver. The danger of this is about the waiver. Why would you insist on sending someone to a high security office and waive security clearance? The DG of DIRCO says he did not approve that in the document that is from Ms Mnayaka again. There was this need to waiver. It was an urgent thing that this man must go there now, and then the man, when he got there, becomes friends with Mr Chawla. We will come to that later.
Ms Mocke: On the matter of the waiver, HR will not be able to pronounce at all because that is a matter dealt with by Immigration and Counter Corruption, through to the State Security Agency (SSA). HR is always provided with a copy of the security clearance certificate, because we hold the personnel files for all 10 000 employees. We do in fact have copies of the certificate which would have been given to us by the relevant branch, or by Counter Corruption, depending on who is leading the process, but we do have the copies.
Ms Kenye: Which cases do you recommend and which cases do you just implement? Secondly, the FOC office run by Mr Kobese said he knows nothing that had happened. He was not told why Mr Steyn was redeployed to Munich, but what is surprising is why the immediate supervisor did not know why Mr Steyn was redeployed to Munich. In my understanding, you can’t take a decision if there was no disciplinary charge, because it was just verbatim that this was discussed. It was gossip to say so. How can you say there was no intervention of disciplinary processes if there was nothing that was written down so as to discipline him?
Ms Mohoboko: Let me repeat what I said earlier on. The role of HR is to verify the incumbent being put forth -- whether that person meets the criteria because there are certain criteria that are in the policy that Ms Mocke was talking about. Almost like the watchdog of the Department, it is our responsibility to verify that all the criteria that have been set are met. So it is not HR that would have come up with a name. It would be Foreign Office Coordination. In this instance, they would have been the ones saying they would like Mr Christians to go, and then we would check whether Mr Christians met the requirements. Whether Mr Christian had personal suitability checks -- that was why we were talking about vetting and all of those issues. In other words, like a check list, we tick whether all things are available before we can recommend yea or nay. We also check the qualifications, so that is the role of HR, but the identification of candidates would happen at the branch that we are serving. In this case, it was Immigration.
Chairperson: Maybe at some point, as we deal with Mr McKay, we will have to deal with Mr Mgabe on the basis of what you have just raised, that there was this push from Mr Kobese that Mr Mgabe must be the one that must be deployed there, and you then ended up having to deal with these two conflicts. I would not want to call Mr Kobese back to the stand, because getting to understand the deployment of Mr Christians becomes very serious. Mr McKay may want to talk to us about Mr Mgabe coming in, and I understand that Mr Mgabe in fact had problems in respect of service delivery. I am not going to call Major Kobese to come and testify further on Mr Mgabe, but it is important to understand why you can see that a decision had been taken -- you can see from the Minister -- but how did Mr Kobese bring Mr Mgabe in? Mr McKay may want to talk to us about that so that we are very clear in our understanding of this conflicting situation that had in fact almost led to the collapse of the submission by Mr Hlongwane, who was the main person asked to compile this submission.
Mr Figlan: I just need clarity on how these deployments were made, and how many people were short-listed before you came up with the decision of the two gentlemen? I can understand that Mr Steyn was moved by Mr Christians.
Chairperson: There was no short-listing here -- it was the instruction of the two names.
Mr Figlan: Oh, it was an instruction from the top?
Mr Figlan: Is it normal to get instructions from the top to take a person? Was that person head hunted, or someone who was known in the Department?
Ms Mohoboko: In this instance of the deployment to a foreign mission office of Mr Christians and the other candidate, they did not go through the normal short-list. This is what Ms Mocke was explaining when she said that this process happened outside of the four-year cyclic process. When you start with the four-year normal process, you know that you have a select pool of people from which to take the most suitable. At that time, what HR does is to send out an advert, select a pool of candidates who would have shown interest, check their suitability, and send them through to training first. They undergo a thorough process of not less than three months’ training, which is a combination of what we provided at the Learning Academy, as well as other institutions such as DIRCO and the SSA. In this instance, that process was not followed because these were people that were already in the Department. I am sure Mr McKay will talk about that later on to say on what basis these people were selected, because having identified the service delivery challenges and the complexities of the mission, it became critical for them to select a person that understood and had an understanding of the nature of the mission, and therefore to select a person that had been able to do a similar type of work. I believe that he will talk to that process, so it did not follow the normal one where one would interview and do all of that.
Mr Hoosen: May I just say to both of you that you have set out very clearly what the role of HR was in this entire process, and thank you for making it very clear. If I understand you correctly, your entire role in this saga was purely to provide advice and support on how this process should be done? Ms Mocke, by the time you got into that meeting with Mr McKay, you got the impression that the decision was to appoint at least Mr Christians, because his was the common name. I get it that there was some confusion there. Am I correct that the decision had already been taken somewhere else?
Ms Mocke: Definitely a decision had been taken to do the transfers. Mr Christians’ and Mr Mgabe’s names were cited, but the line was going to confirm to us what the final decision on the candidates would be.
Mr Hoosen: By the time you had that meeting and you got the impression that the decision was already taken, did you have any idea where the decision had been taken and where it was coming from to replace the staff there?
Ms Mocke: In the meeting, Mr McKay mentioned to me that management had taken the decision. When he was providing me with the context of the challenges that had been faced in the mission, he also mentioned to me that the Minister had been there and had personally seen the circumstances. It was on that basis then that decision had been taken by management.
Mr Hoosen: The Minister had been there. Which Minister are you referring to?
Ms Mocke: Mr McKay indicated that Minister Gigaba had actually been to visit this mission and had personally seen some of the backlog.
Mr Hoosen: What did Mr McKay say to you about what Minister Gigaba observed when he went there?
Ms Mocke: It was not a detailed conversation. It was basically trying to provide some contextual background to say that there were these challenges in the mission, the Minister had been there personally, he had been taken on a walkabout by the High Commissioner or the head of the mission, he had personally observed the backlogs that had existed and as a result of that and the relationship that had been strained, management had taken a decision that transfers needed to be effected. That is as much as I am able to provide you, to my knowledge.
Mr Hoosen: Would I be correct if I said the decision to make adjustment to the staff -- and I refer to moving Mr Steyn out and bringing in Mr Christians -- would not have been taken by senior management of the Department, and then brought to Minister Gigaba’s attention? In other words, it was not a recommendation that came from the DG and the DDG to the Minister, sitting down and explaining they had a problem he needed to support them on. It would have been a decision that started there in Minister Gigaba’s office. Is that how you understood it?
Ms Mocke: That is a matter I cannot pronounce on at all, because it could be either scenario. I am not sure what happened in this specific case.
Chairperson: Do you know of Mr Christian’s deployment to New Delhi before, and of how many terms he was deployed there -- do you have that information?
Ms Mocke: If you could just give me a minute to find it?
Chairperson: My apologies, Mr Hoosen, you will come back. I am trying to advance a particular point here.
Ms Mocke: Mr Christian was first deployed to New Delhi as a Senior Admin Officer for the period of 1 August 2007 to 31 October 2010. Then there was a second deployment to New Delhi.
Chairperson: Is this now the second one of his security clearance, and all of that?
Ms Mocke: That’s it.
At this stage, Mr Thulani Mavuso, Acting DG: DHA, tried to interrupt.
Chairperson: Sorry, don’t ever do that again. The person who is speaking here is under oath. You are going to allow her to speak. You are not going to interfere. If you want to speak I am going to put you under oath. I don’t have a problem. I can give you the form. You can sign the form, DG. You can sign the form and take an oath and talk to us. I don’t have a problem. Do you want to speak? No, don’t do that. I am asking you a question. Do you want to speak?
Mr Mavuso: I wanted to correct…
Chairperson: Wait first, do you want to speak?
Mr Mavuso: No, I don’t.
Chairperson: You don’t want to speak. So, just sit there, relax and allow people who are under oath to speak.
Ms Mocke: If I may just ask a question? Sorry, you made a statement about security clearance that I didn’t fully get.
Chairperson: No, I was asking if the second deployment was the latest one now?
Ms Mocke: No, it’s not.
Chairperson: It’s not, so just proceed with all his deployments then.
Ms Mocke: Alright.
Chairperson: He was deployed there in what position first?
Ms Mocke: Starting from the beginning, his first deployment was to New Delhi from 1 August 2007 to 31 October 2010 as Senior Administrative Officer. He was clearly not the head of the mission, or the First Secretary or Secretary. His second deployment to New Delhi was in the capacity of Second Secretary, but on the same salary level, and that was from 1 November 2010 to 31 January 2014. His third deployment to New Delhi was as an Assistant Director of Foreign Office Coordination, from 13 March 2016 to the present.
Chairperson: This is like more of a promotion now. This is the information about the deployment of Mr Steyn?
Ms Mocke: Mr Christians.
Chairperson: This is the deployment of Mr Christians to the New Delhi office. So the man has been there for a long time, right? That is why he sent his CV now to the Guptas for the last term. Okay, that’s fine.
Mr Hoosen: I was trying to ascertain what the source of the decision was. Where did it actually start, to move Mr Steyn out of New Delhi and replace him with Mr Christians? What is your understanding? Where did it start?
Ms Mocke: Like I indicated to you, I really am not sure. When we prepared the submission, that is why I indicated to Mr McKay it would have to be approved by the Minister, and at least then the letter would be issued to Mr Steyn. The approving authority would then have been the Minister and that would have been legally correct. But what would have happened before the time, I cannot pronounce on the matter.
Mr Hoosen: Your colleague said there was a complaint coming from the head of the mission through the Minister. Am I correct?
Ms Mohoboko: You are correct. That is what I gathered from Mr McKay.
Mr Hoosen: What exactly did he say to you?
Ms Mohoboko: He said that when he was called by the Minister, he indicated to him that there were service delivery challenges in the mission, and he had actually done a walkabout at the mission, and so he had discussed this matter with him.
Mr Hoosen: He did the walkabout -- were you referring to Minister Gigaba?
Ms Mohoboko: Yes.
Mr Hoosen: This is important, because I need to understand where it comes from. Am I understanding you correctly that the sequence of events was something like this: the Minister happened to go to New Delhi at some point, and he saw for himself that there were backlogs; he then communicated or called Mr McKay and conveyed to him there was a problem there in New Delhi, and then Mr McKay came to you asking how they should fix this? This was what they wanted to do. Is my understanding correct?
Ms Mohoboko: Your understanding is correct.
Mr Hoosen: Is that what you got from Mr McKay?
Ms Mohoboko: That is my understanding from my conversation with Mr McKay.
Mr Hoosen: The decision initially to start the whole process of making an adjustment to the staff in New Delhi, according to your understanding, from what I am getting now, started with Minister Gigaba?
Ms Mohoboko: I am not saying so. What I am saying is that in our very recent discussion with Mr McKay, I was made to understand that in the unfolding of events there was a point where the Minister was there. I don’t know whether it was the first point of this discussion or not, but I know that he did a walkabout and having observed himself the service delivery challenges, he then discussed them with Mr McKay. As to what could have transpired prior to that, I would not have knowledge.
Chairperson: When you say ‘recently,’ what do you mean? You recently had this discussion with Mr McKay? Was it during this process that had started, or before this process was started?
Ms Mohoboko: It was already after the submission had happened.
Chairperson: After the submission.
Ms Mohoboko: Yes.
Mr Hoosen: It won’t be true to then say that the sequence of events would have started with the Minster?
Ms Mohoboko: I don’t know.
Mr Hoosen: Your recent conversation with Mr McKay was very clear, that the Minister himself was not satisfied what was going on there, is that correct? Given your experience of dealing with the Department and making adjustments to staff, it appears to the me from all that has gone on so far, given that Mr Christians didn’t have the necessary clearance, you had to go to a great deal of effort in your department to try and find a way to make this work, to go and investigate the provisions of the law and all of that. It seems to me the appointment of Mr Christians was not an ordinary circumstance. It is not something that had happened before, and was extraordinary from what I picked up.
Ms Mocke: The transfer of staff within the Department is a very ordinary practice. Yes, in this context of the foreign missions, it was extraordinary, which is why the branch when they were confronted with this situation was not sure how to deal with it within the mission context. But transfers on this basis between posts for the reasons furnished by the Public Service Act and Regulations involved a standard operating procedure, and it still does. There is nothing abnormal about that within Home Affairs at all.
Mr Hoosen: Do you know whether at the time the suggestion was made to take Mr Christians across to New Delhi, that he was technically not entirely qualified from a security clearance and all of those things? That is what I understand.
Ms Mocke: Correct.
Mr Hoosen: Would there have been staff at other foreign missions that would have been qualified for you to make an intermission transfer, rather than take a member of staff from here? Were you aware of anyone?
Ms Mocke: I would say that yes, there would definitely have been some qualified staff.
Mr Hoosen: So, if I wanted to fix that problem in New Delhi as quickly as possible, given that the Minister had brought to my attention there was this huge problem and I understood the urgency, wouldn’t it have made sense to have brought a staff member, probably from another mission, because they would have met all the requirements and a quick intermission transfer with Mr Steyn -- somebody else, rather than Mr Christians?
Ms Mocke: I would assume that those are the considerations that the branch would have taken into account before they took the decision. But from an HR perspective, I would say not necessarily, because missions are different in terms of environment. It’s not like you can play dominos with staff. Every mission has its own unique environment. It has its own culture and religious environment, so it might sound easy to be able to do at face value on paper, but in terms of practicality it may become far more complicated quite quickly.
Mr Hoosen: In the case of Mr Steyn, there was none of that consideration? There was a telephone call to him in September to say, do you want to go to Munich? And he said yes. The next thing, he was on his way to Munich. None of those considerations were taken into account then.
Ms Mocke: I wouldn’t be able to say that they weren’t, because none of those conversations were held with me. Ms Mnyaka was the one who applied the criteria and made the recommendations and made the phone call. I am unable to answer that question. I would, however, like you to look at paragraph 234 of the submission and the lesson learnt, which was clearly the branch putting certain matters on the table saying that they had blundered a bit here, and needed to strengthen the controls. I would assume, before the recommendations were made to be put to other individuals at the mission, that they would at least have considered the same factors which indicated they should have done a better job on previously.
Mr Hoosen: When I asked you if there could possibly be other qualified persons at other missions, you said yes, possibly, but that one had to take into consideration other factors such as religion etc. Was that a standard practice in the Department -- that before you moved someone across there was a list of things you need to tick in each box?
Ms Mocke: When you say move across, you mean from South Africa to a mission abroad?
Mr Hoosen: I am talking about an intermission transfer.
Ms Mocke: There were criteria that were applied by the branch Immigration’s Chief Director: Foreign Office Coordination. I could just give you an example of when we do the recruitment of the four-year cycle recruitment. We place an advertisement. A selection panel would be appointed they do the short-listing. Then they would do the assessment criteria. They do the interviews, and then those candidates, staff members, would be appointed into the foreign service dispensation. The Minister would approve the submission, but nobody would be placed in a mission yet, and I would be able to demonstrate that. Then you went to your three months’ training. In that three months’ training period, you would be exposed to all the tick boxes, during which time the security vetting process should have been running, perhaps in parallel. When you come out of that training, the branch Chief Director: Foreign Office Coordination would then say they had 20 individuals that had finished the training, and they all have got security clearances. Based on the outcome of this training and all the criteria that were applied in the person-to-post matching, they would make recommendations. So, there were definitely criteria that were applied by the Chief Director: Foreign Office Coordination in making recommendations to the Minister at the end of the day as to which official would need to be placed in which particular mission.
Mr Hoosen: You recall earlier, we were discussing the telephone call that Ms Mnyaka had made to Mr Steyn. I don’t recall your exact words, but you tried to explain that you understood what she was trying to do. Given that she was trying to put this puzzle together and needed to check, that is probably the reason why she called Mr Steyn. Do you know if she made a similar call to Mr Christians?
Ms Mocke: I have absolutely no idea.
Mr Hoosen: There were three reasons, from what I picked up, for why Mr Steyn was moved. These were apparently service delivery failures, then there was this allegation that there was a break down in the relationship between himself and the head of mission, France Morule, and the third one was that there was quite a number of backlogs. I gather that the backlogs and service delivery were a direct factor in the relationship that he had with Mr Morule. I am making that assumption. Perhaps this is why they wanted to move him out. But Mr Steyn says that as far as he was concerned, he did his work. In fact, his performance assessment had been brilliant and there had been no charges brought against him. Can you give us some sort of comfort about how it is that staff are moved around when there is no record of poor performance whatsoever? He was here, and you heard him say nobody had ever brought it to his attention. Neither did Mr Kobese say so -- as far as he was concerned, he was doing his work okay. Mr Jackie McKay, Minister Gigaba and the head of mission -- those three people said there was a breakdown in the relationship, it was affecting service delivery and there were backlogs. What do you make of that?
Ms Mocke: Under no circumstances should any official be moved around anywhere for any reason that is not substantiated, that is not verified, and that is not validated. It goes against the very grain of fair labour practice. So, I agree entirely that if there were no reasons that necessitated or justified this move, then the move should have never taken place. If the Public Service Act says that one’s move is in the public interest for service delivery, but there was service delivery, then the move should not have taken place. The Public Service regulations speak about the need to enhance organisational effectiveness and efficiency. If the move was not to enhance organisational effectiveness and efficiency, it shouldn’t have taken place because the Department had placed Mr Steyn for four years and he was contracted to the four years. Supplying the validation needed to come from Chief Director: Foreign Coordination in accordance with the memorandum of understanding with DIRCO, and all the relevant processes that it had applied to date needed to be supplied there.
Mr Hoosen: As you say, it goes against fair labour practice if you don’t give the employee an opportunity to at least defend himself. You can imagine, poor Mr Steyn has been sitting here the whole day and people are talking a lot of bad things about him, saying that he did a terrible job. That is not fair. It goes against fair labour practice. I agree with you. Did you provide that advice to Mr McKay and say, if this guy is so bad you can’t just do this, you need to follow a process, or did you just move on?
Ms Mocke: I would like to indicate again that the decision to move individuals had already been taken. As a result of that, my initial reaction as HR would be, would the official be prejudiced? And there was no prejudice, because he was not being recalled. Do you understand? He was being moved to another mission, and with that came benefits, such as the standard of living. There were things that affect the officials’ pockets literally. So, my immediate reaction was, would the official be in a worse off situation as a result? Would there be prejudice? There would be no prejudice, so from that perspective I had a greater sense of comfort. Had it been a recall, Mr McKay would never have had this conversation with me, because they deal with labour relations matters. They deal with matters that go for arbitration to whichever level of the bargaining council, and I would be served with a memo at the end of the day to say there had been a decision, and this was the ruling of the presiding officer, and could we please now move this individual from the payroll of this mission and put him in a post in South Africa.
Mr Hoosen: You said earlier on there is much that could be done to fix the service delivery problems instead of replacing or removing people. Can you just tell us what that could have been done?
Ms Mocke: Firstly, I need to say that when I had the meeting with Mr McKay, I was not aware of what had already been done. The interventions were not unpacked in detail, but the branch knew that had the nature or the complexion of our conversations been the massive backlogs and the relationship problems, and seeking help and telling them what to do, then my approach would have been very different. The branch would have asked us to step in with the tools that we had to validate, to do time and motion studies, to look at why there was an increase in visa applications, and whether there was enough staff. I am talking about the HR textbook that we could have applied there. The branch Immigration had always had the liberty to approach us if they needed some assistance, but the request that came was not that they had a problem, seeking advice from us on what to do. The nature of the conversation was that there had already been a range of interventions that had not proven successful, so there had been a decision to transfer. They needed one thing from me in my environment, because we did people acquisition frequently -- could it be done legally? If I had said no, it could not be done, the branch would have explored other options because it wouldn’t have had a choice.
Chairperson: We will get to know more of those interventions in the next round, when we deal with Mr McKay.
Ms Mkhaliphi: You are telling us that the meeting that took place between yourself and Mr McKay regarding the transfer of Mr Steyn, at which you were informed that even the Minister wanted a sort of intervention because there was that beef between Mr Steyn and the head of mission. As HR, I take it that you can’t just take the word of another person without going to get the other side of the story from your staff member. That is one of your responsibilities as HR. Am I correct?
Ms Mocke: No. I want to make it clear that the validation of the report that was given to me was not the responsibility of the branch HR. It was of the Chief Director: Foreign Coordination who was responsible for staff in the mission.
Ms Mkhaliphi: There was the matter of Mr Steyn being transferred from New Delhi to Munich, and it happened that you had a meeting with the DDG of Immigration Services, and he told you the reason. He even asserted that the Minister had used his discretion to move this member. I am saying to you, now you are sitting in a meeting, that your member Mr Steyn has not told you his side of the story. As HR, I would have thought that the HR process would involve getting the side of the story from the junior member of the Department, instead of taking the word of the DG and also the Minister, who wanted the member to be moved, as these were not the processes of HR.
Ms Mocke: Those are HR processes, but line managers are responsible for applying HR processes and managing their own staff. It could not have been HR’s responsibility, under the circumstances, to walk out of that meeting and go and apply an audi partem rule, because that is what we are talking about, to Mr Steyn without even a base document supporting this from the side of line management. That is why I keep saying the reports required to do the validation needed to come from Foreign Office Coordination. We would have asked the question: did you apply the audi partem rule? We would not have done it ourselves. That needed to be very distinctly differentiated from each other.
Ms Mkhaliphi: Earlier on, Mr Steyn was on the stand and he said to us that when he received the phone call from Ms Mnyaka, what would have been the role of HR if he had asked those questions, because surely he would be protesting if he didn’t want to leave that post?
Chairperson: What would have been the role of HR if he didn’t want to leave that post?
Ms Mocke: The line manager would have reported to HR to say this was the mandate that had been given, and they were expected to consult Mr Steyn. Mr Steyn was refusing to buy into the process. We would then have stepped in. You see, they would be coming to us with an actual situation where they needed our assistance. Under those circumstances, the first thing I would have done was to review the consultation process. How did that in actual fact unfold; was it done in writing; was it done verbally; was it done face-to-face; was it done via Skype; how did you approach it; what was it that you put on the table? We had actually just recently done a whole standard operating procedure trying to explain to management how to approach this in a positive way. Then we would have returned to Mr Steyn and asked if they had had a conversation with him, and stated that they should have backed it up in a letter to him in which they tested the sentiments with him. If Mr Steyn then responded to them in writing, he could have raised the very same concerns that are alleged now and then brought them to us as HR. We could then have seen how we could put measures or tools or processes around that to support him. Maybe there were misunderstandings on Mr Steyn’s side. Maybe it was how he had approached the matter. So, that is how we would have dealt with that situation, but Mr McKay would be able to respond on how effectively that part of the process had happened. We set it as a requirement though. At the end of the process, we issued a letter giving Mr Steyn an opportunity to raise reservations, which he didn’t do.
Chairperson: You wee operating on the basis that a decision had already been taken at the highest level. On that note, once the decision had been taken at a high level, due diligence was no longer required because the decision had been taken at a higher level. You can trample on the rights of the worker as long as the decision is taken at a higher level?
Ms Mocke: Not at all. What I am saying is that there was this submission routed to the Minister, who signed it and it came back. A transfer letter was then issued to Mr Steyn that could have been done face-to-face -- it could also have been done in various other ways. The long and the short of it was that Mr Steyn was given an opportunity to accept or decline in writing the transfer put before him. He accepted it. If he had declined, we would have said, let’s sit down let’s talk about the reasons together.
Chairperson: So we know now that Mr Steyn was excited that he was leaving a condition that was appalling. He was the happiest man in this regard, and that is why he accepted the deployment without really understanding if there was any problem around that. He was just a happy man, and did not know that in fact he had been removed because of a breakdown in relationships. If he knew that, I think he would have considered twice, with his experience of having served the Department for 20 years. He would have wanted his views to be heard, if he knew. To him it was an innocent removal, but different from what Mr McKay knew. What was communicated to Mr Steyn was different. He gets this call that says, are you willing to go to Munich? He sees this as an opportunity. He is excited. What Mr McKay communicated was different -- tension, a breakdown in the relationship, service delivery problems, and the Minister had been to that office. I am not sure if the Minister even met with Mr Steyn when he went to that office. I don’t want to call Mr Steyn back to the stand again. I am saying this is two versions you are dealing with. Mr Steyn is innocently looking at this deployment and is excited about it. Mr McKay is putting down the breakdown of relationships. In your paragraph five, you make reference to the type of problems that are there.
Chairperson: What do you make of what Mr Kobese said in respect of the process that you have dealt with, and at the same time him pushing Mr Mgabe? What do you make of this whole thing, as a high-level HR specialist?
Ms Mocke: Firstly, I find it interesting that an individual who is as assertive as Mr Kobese is -- because he is an assertive individual within the Department and he has never hesitated to speak his mind at any level on any platform about anything that bothers him -- would not have come to the DDG HR or, true to form, have written a detailed email to HR if he knew, because he knew before the submission left that it was going. I cannot vouch to what extent he was informed of the problems in the mission, but I cannot imagine that the DDG Immigration, together with the Chief Director Foreign Coordination, could be managing a process entirely away from the alleged immediate supervisor. That doesn’t come together for me. And I know that Mr Kobese knew before the submission was routed or done and given to Mr McKay by Mr Hlongwane to say here is the submission that you requested. He knew about this because he knew the individuals that had to be deployed, and there was sufficient opportunity for him to raise this. And I don’t understand why, with Mr Kobese knowing before the submission was routed that there were these placement matters or conversations that were happening on a basis that he didn’t agree with, why he allowed that to unfold. He could have gone anywhere. He could have come and spoken to the DDG HR -- we would have never turned him away. We would have confronted that, if that was the situation. Secondly, one of the qualities I appreciate about Mr Kobese the most is the fact that he is very assertive and very vocal when things are not going well. I don’t understand why, in that context.
Chairperson: Today in his submission, he acknowledged that in fact there were no problems. There was never a break down of the relationship. There were no problems with service delivery. He said that today.
Ms Mocke: I would really appreciate an opportunity to hear what DDG Immigration Services has to say.
Ms Mkhaliphi: In your opening remarks, you also read the Public Service Act, and paragraph four states the placement of officials is done at the discretion of the Minister. Can you tell us which Act in your HR policy also works with the discretion of the Minister?
Ms Mocke: Paragraph three and four speak about a recruitment process. That is what is being referred to there. What that means is a selection panel would put forward a recommendation to the Minster for officials to be approved into the foreign service dispensation on the grounds of recruitment, and then they would go through training. When that training process was finalised, the Chief Director Foreign Coordination Office would look at the whole range of criteria for person-to-mission posts. After the training, while the vetting is running parallel, he would make the recommendations to the Minister as to which officials would go to which mission. Yes, the Minister as the approving authority did not have to support the recommendations, and doesn’t need to.
Ms Mkhaliphi: It means there is no specific clause in the HR policy of the Department that you can quote?
Ms Mocke: I referred to the Public Service Regulations which are very blatant and very clear on this matter.
Ms Mkhaliphi: Does the Public Service Act have a specific clause that permits the Minister to use his discretion on the appointment of officials?
Ms Mocke: Yes. (She read section 8 (a) and section 9 and section 14 of the Public Service Act). It is not only the Act -- there are the Regulations and also the policy.
Ms Mkhaliphi: Was HR aware of the R1.1 million cost to move Mr Steyn and Mr Christians that was reported by OUTA?
Ms Mohoboko: I wouldn’t want to respond to that as I don’t have an answer yet. All I can say is that the standard practice for a four year cycle period is that this training would happen, and there is a budget allocated for foreign mission deployments. At this point I don’t have the exact figure to say it is that amount, but I am sure Foreign Office Coordination will do that.
Chairperson: The information at our disposal is that there was a vacant funded post in Munich. So, you looked around the world to see which place had vacant positions for the deployment of Mr Steyn at the same level, which was level 10. It was found that Munich was available and it was budgeted for, but it was vacant -- that’s how you moved him, right? This is what we had learnt so far in the engagement. This is what we were informed.
Ms Mocke: If I can just correct that. At the beginning of the year of deployment, which was 2015, the post in Munich was not funded, but there was a submission written by the Chief Director Foreign Office Coordination in April 2015 where she outlined the circumstances, and there were a lot of diplomatic relations. She requested the DDG HR via the normal process to shift funds around to be able to fund that post in Munich. It was not a case of what vacancies were funded -- there was a necessity already identified to bring capacity into that mission. There was absolutely no presence of Home Affairs in Munich at that point in time.
Chairperson: So by the time Mr Steyn arrived in Munich, all the funding details were already resolved? Do you know who is in Dubai currently at the level of First Secretary?
Ms Mocke: I have no idea. I need to check on the system.
Chairperson: You have not received any complaints from person who is in Dubai currently?
Ms Mocke: I am not the head of the Foreign Office.
Chairperson: I should have asked Mr Kobese when he was on the stand. Maybe I will ask him tomorrow. On that note, I want to thank you for a very robust engagement. It was very encouraging to hear how you understand human resourcea. But when it comes to the staff of Home Affairs, it’s very different. The issue of backlogs is not new, as much as you have identified them in New Delhi, but everywhere there are backlogs. I know in Marabastad not long ago there was a backlog, but I have not heard that you fired or removed people because of it. This is the first time that you hear that.
What is interesting is what you have shared with the Committee mostly around the deployment of Mr Christians, and the period that he has been deployed there, as the Committee deals with issues of the relationship with Mr Chawla. I am not making a conclusion. I am just saying that he has been there for quite some time. We will get to know again how he was identified. Mr McKay will have to talk to us about when they knew there were problems, the breakdown of relationships, how Mr Christians got identified, and who identified Mr Christians. We are aware that Mr Christians did send his CV to the Guptas. He did confirm that on record that he sent his CV there, and the normal practice of the Guptas that we know so far is that you sent your CV before deployment. I don’t want to quote names of people who have sent their CVs but Mr Christians sent his CV. Mr McKay had dumped him in an immigration office somewhere in a corner in Cape Town. He was highly frustrated. He then sent his CV to Mr Chawla and the Guptas saying that he was available, and then got appointed for deployment. I am not making a conclusion, but I am just trying to alert you that somehow we are going to arrive at that conclusion. It will depend on what Mr McKay will say to us.
There were a number of questions I asked you about personnel, your support staff and other issues. I am going to save them, and will deal with them when we deal with the annual report. For now it is okay, as we dealing with an area of particular focus. You were very wonderful and I want to encourage you to be frank and open in the manner which you have demonstrated.
Mr Jackie McKay, DDG: Immigration Services, DHA
Chairperson: Mr Jackie McKay will take us through a number of issues that have been raised in our engagements with Human Resources, and previous engagements that we have had with him under the Immigration branch. The chief issues around these areas are the transfer of officials and when the Guptas entered the country. I think in his input he will be able talk to us on the question of how many of the Guptas that we have in the country that came in through the process of immigration, either from India or anywhere. On this basis, we do have a number of follow up questions that we have prepared for Mr McKay. I am going to propose that we have plus/minus seven questions on our side so far, notwithstanding the rest of the questions that arose during the engagements with Major Kobese and Mr Steyn that require the attention of Mr McKay. We reconfirm that you are still under oath, Mr McKay. On that note, I want us to maybe start with questions that have already been raised, if you have managed to note them. If not, we can start with Members putting forward questions, and then those other questions will come in as we proceed.
In today’s engagement, we have heard the position of Mr Steyn around his redeployment to Munich, in particular the breakdown of relationships, backlogs and service delivery in the office. In Mr Steyn’s submission to the Committee today, he made it very clear to us that he was really not aware of any of these things that had been cited in your request for his redeployment. However, I think at the same time, Mr McKay, you will have to take us through the recruitment and deployment of Mr Christians in relation to his having sent his CV to the Guptas and Mr Chawla, and him having confirmed that he had both a personal and business relationship with Mr Chawla. As the head responsible for Immigration, I think you may have to take us through these issues.
Maybe let’s start with the processes under human resources and your role as you approached the HR department to help you to redeploy Mr Christians and Mr Steyn. Ms Mocke and Ms Mohoboko have made a detailed presentation with regard to the laws and policies. They have given us full details of the procedure regarding deployment or redeployment. Let’s start with the approach of you having requested assistance from HR to help you. The impression is that you had had discussions before this, where a decision was taken which was confirmed by Ms Nomzamo Mnyaka when she called Mr Steyn to confirm his redeployment.
Mr McKay: I will deal with the matter around Mr Steyn and his deployment, how that transpired and how I went to HR for assistance in the matter. Mr Steyn was placed in New Delhi on 6 April 2014. That was his deployment. We received at that time numerous complaints from stakeholders like tourist companies and people applying for visas that there was a serious backlog, and they were waiting for long periods before visas were released. There were a lot of complaints raised at both the departmental level with myself and the DG, and also at the ministerial level. In 2014, we deployed four officials between April 2014 to 15 June 2014 to go and assist in India, both in New Delhi as well as in Mumbai, to work off the backlogs. It was clear that the current staff were not able to deal with the high volume of applications that were being received there. We had an average in the excess of 3 800 applications per month that were received by the missions in India for adjudication.
Mr Steyn at that time had just arrived at the mission and it was clear, in my opinion, that he still needed to acclimatise and adapt to the environment in 2014. He would have been in the post for a couple of months. Clearly, it would have been overwhelming for him, and he might have also found a situation where there was already a backlog at that particular time. Again, in 2015 we received complaints. I just went through my messages now, and I was able to retrieve some of the messages received in 2015 from India. I will read one or two of them so that you can just get the sense of what we were facing at that particular time. These SMS messages came from the Deputy Director General with the Department of Tourism, and her responsibilities included stakeholder management. She sent this SMS on 20 March 2015: “Hi Jackie and Nomzamo, I just received a call. It seems as if the situation in India with visa processing is getting worse. I am told that some of the tour operators in India want to blacklist South Africa due, for example, to cancellation fees and poor service delivery. An application dated 2 March has still not been processed. An urgent intervention will be much appreciated.”
On the basis of these emails that we received and the newspaper reports at that time, we deployed four officials a second time in 2015 to Mumbai and New Delhi to assist with the processing between June 2015 and August 2015. During this particular time, when the Minister visited the mission in 2015 -- and I accompanied him -- he would have been confronted firstly with the complaints that had been received from people and stakeholders in India about serious backlogs that existed. Also during this particular visit, the South African High Commissioner to India, Mr Morule, complained to the Minister about the performance of Mr Steyn, as well as Ms Ansie van Heerden. He took the Minister on a tour and pointed out piles of applications that still needed to be adjudicated. So, on our return to South Africa, Minister Gigaba raised the complaints about Mr Steyn and Ms Van Heerden to me and Ms Mnyaka, then Chief Director: Foreign Office Coordination, and noted that it was clear that Mr Steyn and Ms Van Heerden were struggling to deal with the volumes that confronted them in India. We would need to look at replacing them with officials who understand and knew the terrain in India and that had experience of working in India. During this discussion, a decision was taken that we may want to look at officials who had previously served in India that would be able to deal with the backlog and the crisis we were experiencing at the time. It was during this meeting that the names of Mr Christians and Mr Mgabe came up, as they had been placed in the missions previously.
After this particular meeting, I went and reported the issues to my DG and said to him that this was the discussion that had flowed out of the meeting with the Minister, and that we needed to look at replacing the two officials in the mission. In that discussion with the DG, we decided we needed to have a look carefully around the replacement of people in India, because we had had some problems in the past where we had recalled people to South Africa and there had been problems after that in terms of the procedure that had been followed. I was clear that we were not going to replace anyone until we were clear it could be done in terms of our processes, policies and whether a legal framework for that existed. We then went and had a look at our memorandum of understanding with the DIRCO, as well as our policy with regard to the placement of officials abroad. My two colleagues have spoken to the actual content of those documents. When we had a look at those documents as the line function, myself and Ms Mnyaka, it was clear to me that although we talked about intermission transfers, we had a scenario here that we needed to place a person that was in South Africa in a mission in the middle of a cycle where there had been no competitive process to fill the post. Clearly, the policy document was silent on that, hence my approach to HR, but I will come back to that a bit later.
It was only in October 2015 that we actually sat and had a document drafted around that, because there were a lot of things that were unclear to me, and that I needed to be clear about the deployment of the two. I took up the matter and consulted with the Commissioner, Mr Morule, around this particular matter on numerous occasions. I contacted him many times, trying to ascertain what had led to his request to have the officials replaced. I then also spoke to Ms Mnyaka, and I asked her to do the same with Mr Steyn, to find out from him what the problems with the High Commissioner were. In my interaction with the High Commissioner, he indicated that the team that was there was not able to deal timeously with applications, and that led to the backlog. He also said there was a strained relationship between himself and Mr Steyn. I then asked him if that was the case around the strained relationship, had he charged Mr Steyn, or if he had taken any action against him. He indicated to me that he had not done that but that he would be doing that, and would send to South Africa his deputy High Commissioner, Mr Malusi... let me get the name.
Chairperson: While you are getting the name, let us go back a little. The office was overwhelmed by applications on a daily basis, and you would have 3 000 applications coming to the office. How many people were employed in that office to process visas?
Mr McKay: Two.
Chairperson: Okay, mention the name of the deputy High Commissioner. If you don’t have it, we will get it later.
Mr McKay: Mr Malusi Mugale.
Chairperson: Okay, let’s go back to my question now. This office is receiving almost 3 000 applications a day -- is it per day? And there are two people there?
Mr McKay: Yes.
Chairperson: What does it mean? The average office of Home Affairs, like Barrack Street, has more than 40 to 50 people, and they process fewer than 400 people per day. I’ve been there. I’ve been there with the Minister not so long ago. Fewer than 400 people per day, and in fact at some point they turn them away. If it is 15h30, they tell them to go back. Now you have a situation where you have this office with two staff members. What does it mean to you? What is your understanding? Let’s leave the problems, let’s leave everything, let’s just deal with this deployment now. You sent Mr Steyn, knowing there were challenges in the office there. The Minister goes to the New Delhi office, he meets with the High Commissioner, they talk, and they agree that this man is not cooperating, he is not performing. You come back to the country and you start to ignite the processes to remove Mr Steyn. At some point, you send four people to go and beef up the office because you now know there is no capacity there. They are not permanent -- you just sent them for a few days. I don’t know how long they went there for. Sometime again in 2015 you send another four people, and they go and come back. What was this whole arrangement? Talk to us, what was the strategy? What was the plan to ensure service delivery? Let’s leave out the problems, we will get back to that. What was the plan of the Department to make sure the Department provided accurate and timeous service? Two people, 3 000 applications a day-- by the end of the week, it’s how many?
Mr McKay: No, it is not 3 000 per day, it’s per month. May I just correct you if I may? It works out to 190 applications per day for four officials, because it would be for both New Delhi as well as Mumbai.
Chairperson: That is fine -- 150 with two people in the office. Talk to us about this operation then even if its 100 let’s work on the basis of 100. How long does it take to process one application in the Department?
Mr McKay: It will depend on the application. The turnaround time for a visitor’s visa is five days, and the turnaround time for temporary residence visas, like work visas and study visas, would be eight weeks.
Chairperson: What informs this turnaround time of five days? What does it entail? What informs the process? Who does what?
Mr McKay: The official in the office would go through the application, adjudicate the application, they would verify certain documents that were given to them during the application and they would take a decision on the application. There are some that are straightforward -- you would get the application with all the supporting documents, with very little to verify, and they would be able to do that within a day or two. There are some that would need further verification which could take five days or longer to do.
Chairperson: So now you were confronted with a situation that your client wanted this application within 24 hours. It was confirmed. Major Kobese confirmed that, and Mr Christians confirmed that the client wanted the applications to be finalised within 24 hours. There were two officials in one office to adjudicate, to go through them and check the documents. There were 150 applications per day, and they don’t come at the same time -- they come as they day goes on. Some will arrive at 08h00, some at 14h00, so they are expected to perform this work. Have you done any application processing yourself?
Mr McKay: No. I have not done it myself, but I have experience of it. I have seen it done. I have been on the work floor.
Chairperson: We will come back to the submission that you made last time. I just want to open up for Members to engage with you.
Ms Mkhaliphi: I am very happy you were here when other colleagues were testifying so at least you have first-hand information on the follow up questions that we would like to ask you. The transfer of Mr Steyn from New Delhi to Munich happened on 6 May 2016. When was the trip that you took with the Minister during which you were told about the complaints about Mr Steyn.
Mr McKay: In July 2015.
Ms Mkhaliphi: What is your role as a department, especially your offices at the level of the DDG, if there is a complaint about your staff? What procedure do you normally engage with the staff?
Mr McKay: Because the staff at the mission report to the Ambassador or the High Commissioner, we will engage the High Commissioner on the matter to find out what the problem is. Why are there backlogs? Then in consultation with them we will then take a decision in terms of how we can assist that particular mission from a head office or Home Affairs level.
Ms Mkhaliphi: So you just engage with the head of the mission about what is happening if there is a complaint about a member of staff. You don’t go back to your own staff member just to get his or her side of the story? That is the normal practice within the Department?
Mr McKay: When there is a complaint about a staff member? Yes, we do go back. That is why I had indicated to Ms Mnyaka that she should go back to Mr Steyn to find out what the problems were, as the line function manager of Mr Steyn or Chief Director in that particular area. She would then normally address the problems in her particular area and would then come back to me.
Chairperson: This probe is very important. Mr Steyn is here and I said to him, please don’t leave as I may call you back again. Now this point necessitates that I must call back Mr Steyn to take the stand to verify this engagement with Ms Mnyaka. It is very important to do that exercise. So let’s proceed with that. I am going to call him under oath again to talk about his engagement with Ms Mnyaka. I know that Ms Mnyaka has retired, and I know it is the position of the Committee that we must call her. We will evaluate this, based on this engagement now. I am going to give an opportunity to Mr Steyn to state his record around this. When we engaged with him, we did not get to this level.
Ms Mkhaliphi: I am interested in what happened between the movement of Mr Steyn and the actions by Ms Mnyaka. After you went back to Ms Mnyaka on the conduct of Mr Steyn, what happened? Mr Steyn even read his affidavit, where he said in paragraph nine, “I had a good working relationship with the High Commissioner at all times during my deployment in New Delhi. No complaints with regard to my work performance were received. I assisted whenever requested by him and my annual performance assessment was satisfactory.” According to the HR processes, Ms Mnyaka was definitely supposed to get what happened between Mr Steyn and the head of mission, and secondly, the performance assessment should also talk to Mr Steyn’s conduct. As a result, he was transferred from New Delhi to Munich, so you as the DDG -- who also received first-hand information from the Minister -- surely had all the information at hand before you acted. According to the meetings between yourself and Ms Mnyaka, it was also mentioned that the only solution was to move him in order to diffuse the situation between him and head of the mission. Please talk to us about the processes that were supposed to be there at HR level, before you decided as a matter of intervention to transfer him. I don’t know if you follow.
Mr McKay: Yes, I do follow. Let me put it in perspective again. When we returned from India, we had a meeting with the Minister. At that particular meeting, the decision was that we would have to replace the two officials that were there. I then went to my Director General and raised the problems with him and I checked whether this could be done -- if we could replace the officials in New Delhi. Could we either recall them, or what was it that we needed to do because my policy did not speak to it, and I didn’t know how to go about doing this. I then consulted HR on this particular matter, wanting to find out how we could deal with this particular matter, because the policy didn’t deal with this type of scenario. The other level I engaged was the High Commissioner, Mr Morule, and asked what the problems were that he was talking about, and he gave me his version of the story. He said there was a breakdown, and sent the deputy in charge, who I met when he came to South Africa. He intimated to me as well the problems of the backlogs and that Mr Steyn couldn’t cope with the applications, and that there was a breakdown. These were the managers of these people at this particular level, and I took it that they were saying this from their assessment, but I did ask them to respond in writing because I needed it in writing. There was nothing forthcoming in writing from July to October 2015, and during this time, with all the complaints that we were receiving from the missions, I made my own deductions and had my discussions with Ms Mnyaka. Maybe we did not do the correct post-to-people matching of the people we sent out at that particular time. We put this down in the submission. There were high volume missions and there are low volume missions. In high volume missions, there were people who coped in those high volume missions.
Chairperson: How many of them do you usually have in those high volume missions? Do you have two people? Which of them?
Mr McKay: Yes, in Nigeria and China.
Chairperson: There are two people?
Mr McKay: Yes, I think in Nigeria we have three people, because the volumes there are much higher than in India.
Chairperson: By the time you went to human resources and asked for advice, which was confirmed in this meeting today, a decision had already been taken to remove the people?
Mr McKay: Yes, indeed. In the meeting with the Minister, the decision was taken to replace them. I then started with implementing the decision, and asked how we could implement it.
Chairperson: When you were in New Delhi with the Minister, did you speak to the officials in the office?
Mr McKay: Yes, I did.
Chairperson: What did you say to them?
Mr McKay: I spoke to Mr Steyn, who was with us during that whole period. I was aware about the challenges they had at the mission so I engaged the team on how they were coping with the backlog. Was it going fine, or did we need to send more people to deal with the backlogs? They indicated to me that they were coping with the backlogs. At that time, I was not privy to the information that the Ambassador raised with the Minister in terms of a problem with the staff, and that we needed to replace people at that particular time. We were made privy to that information only on our return when the Minister called a meeting to deal with people not coping at the mission.
Chairperson: How many people are there now?
Mr McKay: If my memory serves me correctly, we now have four people in that particular mission. We deployed two new people to New Delhi.
Chairperson: It is now clear with the work load there, the two people were not coping and you have had to put in extra people to cope with the work load. What does it then tell you?
Mr McKay: It tells us a lot. Clearly, we don’t have enough people at our missions and this is what we have been saying all along -- we need more people at our missions. It is well documented as well that the human resource capacity in immigration is appalling, and that we do not have enough people.
Chairperson: You are now aware that there was a backlog informed by a lack of capacity in the office and the problem of the breakdown in the relationship was hearsay. In Mr Steyn’s submission, he did not even know that there was a breakdown in the relationship. He had just been deployed there with around 30 years’ experience within the Department. The breakdown of the relationship for me is not there. Maybe the Minister will talk to what informed this breakdown in the relationship. You had identified a problem that there was not capacity in these offices, so how did removing Mr Steyn help you, with 30 years’ experience in Home Affairs? How did the decision help to resolve the problem?
Mr McKay: At the time, the discussion was around maybe having mismatched Mr Steyn, and that if we had matched him with a post in terms of a high volume mission, as the submission indicated, he probably wouldn’t have been able to cope with the pressure at that time. Maybe if we replaced him with someone else who was able to work under pressure, the performance would be better. This was why, in my assessment, I raised that Mr Steyn was an experienced officer and that we did not have to recall him. We had a lack somewhere else in our missions, so if he was not able to deal with the volumes in New Delhi, maybe we should look at deploying him to a mission where we had fewer applications, and he would be able to deal with that. The mission in particular was in Germany, because we needed someone there who was very capable and able to deal with sophisticated clients, but the volumes were much less. When Mr Steyn worked in Germany, there were no problems around his performance, and we never received any feedback from anyone on that. It was clear to me that maybe there had been a mismatch of the person-to-post, and maybe if we had done our matching correctly we wouldn’t have had the problem. This was my assessment at that particular time. I am not privy to any other information that is coming up here or at any particular time. We were looking at an operational matter and how to deal with this particular crisis facing us operationally, and how best to resolve it.
Chairperson: How does VSS help, because the very same applications still go to the office?
Mr McKay: VSS doesn’t do any adjudication at all. What they basically do is take in applications. They are a front office to take applications to the back office.
Chairperson: How much do they charge?
Mr McKay: It depends, from country to country.
Chairperson: Roughly, what is the standard that you know?
Mr McKay: I will have to come back to you. It is gazetted. It is documented, but I can’t recall from country to country. In some countries it’s $90 or $100. It differs from country to country, according to the cost of living in that country.
Chairperson: The Department still has to return fraudulent documents, the lack of verification?
Mr McKay: Yes. We still need to do the whole adjudication. They don’t do any quality checks at all.
Ms Mkhaliphi: You waited till October 2015, and there was no feedback from your staff regarding Mr Steyn’s charge about his conduct, but you continued to transfer him on the basis that he was having a breakdown in his relationship with the head of mission. Can you confirm that the reason for his removal to Munich to New Delhi was wrong, because you did not have something that was tangible?
Chairperson: Either the failure to perform, or the failure to provide service. Again, service is around capacity, and that is why you ended up putting extra people there. So, you expected him to perform beyond his capacity to perform, and that is why you ended up having to put extra people there to work in that office?
Ms Mkhaliphi: The capacity is another factor. We were told here that the real reason was the breakdown between Mr Steyn and the head of mission. This has been on the record of the Department. Even Mr Kobese told us that that was what he was made to understand was the real reason. Can we agree that the reasons why you transferred Mr Steyn from New Delhi to Munich, under the pretence that there was a breakdown in the relationship with the head of mission, were wrong?
Mr McKay: No, I would not agree with that, because they were other factors considered. We needed to intervene on two occasions by placing people there to assist with backlogs. Those interventions were there because there were clear complaints around service delivery in that particular mission, albeit the number of staff members there, but there were clear service delivery complaints in India around that particular time. So, I can’t agree that it was wrong to replace him. The Minister needed to take an operational decision at that time, and that is the decision that he took that he thought was in the best interest to deal with the matter.
Ms Mkhaliphi: It’s fine, I am sure that my colleagues will follow up. This is the one example or case where we are told you have done an intervention on the breakdown of the relationship with the head of mission and Mr Steyn. Can you tell us if it happened in other missions where you intervened by removing people?
Mr McKay: Yes, there was a case in Zimbabwe where we needed to return someone because of a breakdown between the staff member and High Commissioner in Zimbabwe.
Chairperson: How did you know about the Zimbabwe situation compared to this one, which you learnt about only when you were here, not when you were in India with the Minister? What processes were involved, and what actions were taken against that particular individual?
Mr McKay: The matter was raised with myself and the Director General with regard to the person in Zimbabwe by the High Commissioner himself. During that process, our intervention was to refer the High Commissioner to our polices as well as to our agreement that he was responsible for the management of that person, and that he should take the necessary steps to deal with the particular person according to the law and Labour Relations Act. He followed that process, and when that process had been followed he then handed it to us and we went through it. This was a person actually charged for misconduct.
Chairperson: So, why then in India did you not do that?
Mr McKay: This is what I tried to follow up in the two or three months that we are talking about, when I tried to get the Ambassador or High Commissioner to put his complaints against Mr Steyn in writing, to deal with this particular matter so we could get finality. There was nothing forthcoming, other than him sending his deputy to have a meeting with me -- again a verbal feedback. Other than hearing about what he was saying about a breakdown, no charges were laid or any formal thing like a report was given to us. I had raised it at the time with HR, and that is why I wanted advice from HR on how to deal with this particular matter, when I approached them in August.
Chairperson: Your approach with HR was more about you having taken a decision and wanting to see if it was okay for you to transfer him. It was not much about the problems, because HR would have advised about what you said about the Zimbabwe situation. That is what HR would have said to you, because there was no other way other than advising the head of mission to do what you had advised the Zimbabwe Ambassador to do.
Mr McKay: Indeed, it was never hidden that the decision had been taken. In fact, it is in the submission as well.
Ms Mkhaliphi: Who was the head of mission in New Delhi who was fighting with Mr Steyn?
Mr McKay: Mr France Morule.
Ms Mkhaliphi: You mentioned that when HR, or person who was supposed to give you feedback on the enquiry into Mr Steyn’s conduct, didn’t give you anything, you were also expected to go back and report to the Minister. What did you tell the Minister when you didn’t have anything that was tangible regarding his conduct?
Mr McKay: The Ambassador was resolute that they wanted Mr Steyn and Ms Van Heerden gone. In fact, I made a case for Ms Van Heerden, because there was no way they could replace her because it was the senior manager that Ms Van Heerden worked under, which was Mr Steyn, so why remove her as well. If the problem was backlogs under Mr Steyn’s leadership, maybe we should change the leadership and see how Ms Van Heerden performed.
Chairperson: By that time, don’t forget that Mr Christians had already submitted his CV to the Guptas. This is why the Ambassador was insisting no matter what you do, remove this person from here. I am trying to give logic to this whole thing. The Ambassador was insisting without facts that Mr Steyn must go. He even sent two people to come here. In fact, if we had time, I was going to subpoena the Ambassador here. He even sent two people to come and put a case that was not there and say Mr Steyn must go -- in fact two of them must go, and he used the basis of backlog. They used the reason of a breakdown in the relationship between him and Mr Steyn. It was not much about backlog. It was about a strained relationship which Mr Steyn did not know about. Mr Steyn was shocked and surprised as to when was there a breakdown in the relationship, because he was happy and surprised to know of that here. You don’t see anything here at play? What is your understanding, as a high level official?
Mr McKay: Are you talking about hindsight?
Chairperson: What are you getting from this whole thing? The conclusion that you may make at the end is that Mr Steyn got removed because the CV had been submitted, and a person had been called to come and serve there because Mr Steyn was not performing what they wanted him to perform.
Mr McKay: I think I raised it earlier, saying that I had no knowledge of the issues that are being raised here now. So, with hindsight, like you asked me the last time, if we talk about hindsight I can give you my opinion on that, but at that point in time I was dealing with a legitimate case of where we had service delivery matters, and I asked and sought advice around how to deal with it. I am not aware of any machinations taking place elsewhere.
Chairperson: Mr Christians has now confirmed under oath here that he had sent his CV to the Guptas.
Mr McKay: I don’t get the question you are trying to ask me…
Chairperson: No, I am raising the point because we can’t keep talking without making sense of what we are talking about, because if we keep on talking we will miss the bigger picture of what we are dealing with here.
Mr McKay: You are talking about the bigger picture, but at that time there was no bigger picture. The problem that is staring at us in our faces is the bigger picture. I do not have any other bigger picture. If there were any machinations and I had known about them, I definitely would not have been part of it and I would have raised it. I went through the lengths of ensuring that we were doing the right thing by the book.
Chairperson: Who then deployed Mr Christians? How did he get recruited to go to India?
Mr McKay: Remember, at that meeting we were having with the Minister, the suggestion was made that we place people at that mission who had been placed there before. They were Mr Mgabe and Mr Christians. Contrary to the matter raised by Mr Kobese -- and this was a matter I raised with HR as well -- I had a problem with Mr Mgabe, and I said that when he was in Mumbai he had health problems and had to come home regularly for his health, so it would not make sense for us to now send him to India where he had problems, and for him to travel even further to come back to South Africa. This was the reason the Minister conceded that Mr Mgabe would not be deployed to India. It was based on that discussion we had about his health during his previous placement. The decision was to place people there that had been placed there before, who understood the terrain and the challenges in the mission, and were able to deal with it. At that time it made sense, looking at it operationally without the hindsight of this bigger picture that you are talking about now.
Mr Hoosen: I just want to go back to a comment you made not too long ago, when I asked why we had to move Ms Ansie van Heerden, and you suggested that maybe we should change the leadership. Who were you speaking to then?
Mr McKay: In the meeting that I was having with my staff, and at that meeting with the Minister discussing how we should deal with the operational matters at the time.
Mr Hoosen: Who was at that meeting?
Mr McKay: It was myself, the Minister and Ms Mnyaka.
Mr Hoosen: This was in the meeting after you returned from New Delhi?
Mr McKay: From India, that is correct.
Mr Hoosen: Was this the only meeting that you had after that, or was there a second or third follow up meeting?
Mr McKay: You mean after returning from India?
Mr Hoosen: Yes, let me just put it in order so I don’t confuse you. You and the Minister were in India, and you figured out there was a problem. On your return, you travelled together and had a conversation about the possible solutions, correct?
Mr McKay: On our return, yes.
Mr Hoosen: And during the flight on your return you considered the possibility of making adjustments to the staff there?
Mr McKay: No, not on our return -- after we got back from India. As I indicated earlier, while we were in India, this was not raised with me.
Mr Hoosen: I understand. So it was the Minister who went there by himself.
Mr McKay: No, I was with the Minister, but the problems that the High Commissioner raised with the Minister was not in my presence at the time. It was raised with me by the Minister when we returned to South Africa.
Chairperson: Meaning that the Minister had a private engagement with the Ambassador.
Mr McKay: It could be. I don’t know. I was not part of that.
Mr Hoosen: But that is what you understand -- that there was an engagement with the High Commissioner and the Minister? Did that engagement happen while you were all in India at the time?
Mr McKay: Yes, it should have happened then, because he was taking the Minister around the offices and talking to the Minister. It was not in a formal meeting where I sat, that these problems were raised.
Mr Hoosen: Soyou were not present when the High Commissioner was telling Minister Gigaba, correct?
Mr McKay: Yes, that’s correct.
Mr Hoosen: You were not there when he was complaining about the backlogs and all that?
Mr McKay: No, I was on the tour. Remember that we had sent interventions to deal with those particular backlogs, but I would not have been privy to a discussion between himself and the Minister on Mr Steyn’s matter.
Mr Hoosen: I see. So the conversation the High Commissioner would have had with Minister Gigaba about Mr Steyn’s incompetence, if I may use that word, was not done in your presence?
Mr McKay: No, it was raised with me by the Minister.
Mr Hoosen: On your return?
Mr McKay: Yes, on our return.
Mr Hoosen: Alright, which is why you obviously started questioning why we even had to move these people? You were trying to clearly consider some alternative solution?
Mr McKay: Or a solution that I thought that would actually help in that particular area.
Mr Hoosen: When was this?
Mr McKay: In July.
Mr Hoosen: That meeting that you held was in July? You have been in the Department for many years, and you’ve obviously had exposure to a number of HR related problems. The problem of a breakdown in relationships is not something that is uncommon. It happens fairly often in many departments. What is your understanding of a breakdown in relationship when two people are not able to work with each other? How do you understand that? What is going on between those two individuals?
Mr McKay: I’m thinking a bit, because I could just say it means exactly that, but I am trying not to do that. I am trying to find other words for it. I suppose it would mean that they can’t work together.
Mr Hoosen: They can’t speak to each other?
Mr McKay: I am not sure whether they would not be speaking to each other, but clearly they would have differences in terms of how to resolve matters or how things needed to be done. It could also be that.
Mr Hoosen: As simple as that? Because two staff members often have different views on how to resolve a problem. So if you and the DG, for example, have a different view, would you describe that as a breakdown in your relationship?
Mr McKay: Not necessarily, but if the differences in views causes us to lead to a situation where we can’t cooperate and work with each other, then I would say it could also cause a breakdown in the relationship.
Mr Hoosen: So when the High Commissioner says that there was a breakdown in the relationship, your understanding of it meant that Mr Steyn was not cooperating?
Mr McKay: Yes, that was my understanding of it -- that he was suggesting that Mr Steyn was unable to deal with the backlogs in this way, and it had not been done, and that was why we were getting into backlogs all of the time or continuously getting into backlogs. Just after removing the staff there had been another backlog that had built up, and I was now being told there was a breakdown in relationships, but I was not getting the essence of the material documentation around it. The other problems with regard to performance and complaints I knew about, but with this particular problem they were raising sharply, I said it was a disciplinary matter and they should deal with it in that particular manner, and asked if there was anything in writing. I would have given similar advice to our High Commissioner in Zimbabwe.
Chairperson: With regard to matters related to the breakdown of relationships. Firstly, I can hear that it was one-sided. Mr Steyn was not performing because he was not doing what the head of missions said he must do, and we now know that he worked by the law. He worked according to what the law said he must do when it came to applications. So what were the problems that were raised with you by the Minister about this breakdown? Was it just a general “there is a breakdown in the relationship, go and make sure that he is removed,” or were you told that these were the problems that led to this breakdown?
Mr McKay: No, there weren’t any problems. That is why I then went and engaged the High Commissioner myself to find out what the problems were.
Chairperson: Have you found out from Mr Steyn what caused the breakdown in the relationship?
Mr McKay: No, I would not have communicated with Mr Steyn on this matter. I would have left it to Ms Mnyaka, like I said. I had a not so good experience when we had a problem in Cuba, when we had to recall somebody, and there was a problem over why I wrote a letter to that person to be recalled, as it should have been his line function manager that dealt with it.
Chairperson: Are you saying to us in this Committee that Ms Mnyaka then did that on your behalf? On behalf of the unit, did she communicate with Mr Steyn about this breakdown in the relationship?
Mr McKay: Yes, that is what I requested her to do.
Chairperson: Did that happen? Did you get the feedback?
Mr McKay: According to her, there was a conversation with Mr Steyn.
Chairperson: No, don’t say ‘she said,’ because it was a process we all need to understand.
Mr Hoosen: You then asked Ms Mnyaka to do what you a call a ‘find out’ from Mr Steyn to see if there was a breakdown in the relationship?
Mr McKay: Yes.
Chairperson: If we call Ms Mnyaka, will she confirm that?
Mr McKay: Yes, she will confirm it, because that is what led her to deal with …
Chairperson: Did she come back to you and say, I have spoken with Mr Steyn?
Mr McKay: Yes, she did come back and say she had spoken to Mr Steyn.
Chairperson: Earlier in Mr Steyn’s submission, he said this was all new for him, and I said he must be ready to be called under oath again to confirm if such had happened. It is going to lead to calling Ms Mnyaka, and if Ms Mnyaka denies she ever confirmed she had spoken to Mr Steyn, what would your take be then, because the only communication we know about between her and Mr Steyn is about the redeployment telephonically. Other than that there is nothing. How was this engagement between Mr Steyn and Ms Mnyaka reported back to you, and when?
Mr McKay: The ‘when’ I won’t be able to tell you, but the feedback given to me by Ms Mnyaka was also that there was no case against Mr Steyn, meaning there was no case against Mr Steyn that she could get from either Mr Steyn or the High Commissioner.
Chairperson: These other dates -- you remember them? The July 2015, when you were told of the breakdown in the relationship, you remember them. The deployment of the four people, you remember when they were deployed, but this one specifically you can’t remember?
Mr McKay: Yes, because these ones I knew what I was going to be dealing with, and I went through the report and got these dates.
Chairperson: So the feedback you got was that there was no such a thing as a breakdown in the relationship?
Mr McKay: Yes, or there was no case against Mr Steyn.
Mr Hoosen: In that meeting with Minister Gigaba, there were other officials there. I am referring to the meeting where you now questioned why it was necessary to remove these people. Do you remember this conversation?
Mr McKay: Yes, I do.
Mr Hoosen: From what I am picking up, you clearly were not satisfied that the only solution to the problem was to redeploy them, because you understood that there was now insufficient evidence per se that they weren’t doing their work or that there was a breakdown in the relationship, and you didn’t have hard evidence to satisfy you in your mind that Mr Steyn was a problem. That is what I am picking up from you in the discussions that you had. You were trying to find another solution rather than redeploy, isn’t that right?
Mr McKay: No, in the discussion that we had, it was clear there was a problem around service delivery and we needed to replace the person that we thought was not managing that area correctly, and that if we replaced the person who was managing that area, we would be able to resolve the problem. That was the discussion at the time. What I had a problem with was to move the whole unit and replace them with a fresh unit, because from where I was standing, if there was a problem with service delivery and if it was the manager who was struggling with this problem, we should maybe replace the manager and get someone who was able to deal with it and we would then resolve the problem. So my disagreement was on whether we needed to replace the whole team, or part of the team.
Mr Hoosen: The whole team -- meaning two people? It’s not like it was 25.
Mr McKay: No, two people are a team as well.
Mr Hoosen: I am trying to get to this point. You went to India, and you saw there was a problem. You wanted to fix the problem. You were sitting in a meeting with the Minister and you were now discussing this problem, and there was a proposal on the table that said, let’s replace these two people, redeploy them. You took the position that said, no, hang on, I am not sure this was the problem -- maybe we need to look at other things. We don’t have the evidence that they are incompetent or that there was a breakdown in the relationship, so I am going to ask Ms Mnyaka to go and find out. Isn’t that what you did?
Mr McKay: No, not exactly in that meeting. I asked her on leaving that meeting to gather some information. I also went to gather information, like I said, when I engaged the High Commissioner and the deputy High Commissioner that he sent.
Mr Hoosen: So, it was after that meeting that you decided to investigate further, but you say at that meeting you took the decision?
Mr McKay: Yes, the decision that there must be a replacement was taken.
Mr Hoosen: Whose proposal was that? Was it yours?
Mr McKay: It came from the Minister.
Mr Hoosen: The Minister suggested they be replaced and you disagreed with it to some degree?
Mr McKay: In terms of the whole team, and as well as the people identified. The Minister took advice, in that he was not resolute on the matter, saying this must happen and that must happen. No, we raised the matter of Mr Mgabe, who I thought was not the correct person to place there, and the Minister took the advice. He also accepted that Ms Ansie van Heerden needed to remain in that post over there. He took advice on that.
Mr Hoosen: He took advice from who?
Mr McKay: From me.
Mr Hoosen: And your advice was?
Mr McKay: Exactly that I didn’t think Mr Mgabe was the right person, as well as that Ms Ansie van Heerden should remain there. If there was someone to be replaced, it should be the manager of that particular area.
Mr Hoosen: Notwithstanding the advice that you gave to Minister Gigaba, the decision was we needed to redeploy these two people?
Mr McKay: No, it was about redeploying one person.
Mr Hoosen: Which was?
Mr McKay: Which was Mr Steyn.
Mr Hoosen: So, the decision was that Mr Steyn must go to Munich, at that meeting?
Mr McKay: Yes.
Mr Hoosen: The reason I am raising this with you is that it has become very clear that whether Ms Mnyaka did the investigation, or whether you had a conversation with the High Commissioner to determine whether or not there was any authenticity to Mr Steyn’s incompetence, it meant absolutely nothing because by then the decision had been taken. You were waiting right up until October for Ms Mnyaka to come back to you.
Mr McKay: No, for the High Commissioner.
Mr Hoosen: For the High Commissioner, for Ms Mnyaka, whoever. But a month before that, Mr Steyn had already got a telephone call saying he was going to Munich. So, all of that investigation was actually a waste of time, because the decision had been made, right? And the decision was made by the Minister?
Mr McKay: Yes.
Mr Hoosen: Thank you, that is what I wanted to get to. It is very clear that you were not the source of moving Mr Steyn to Munich. Am I correct?
Mr McKay: You are correct.
Mr Hoosen: I am going to leave all the other questions around Mr Steyn’s competency, because there is no evidence around that. I want to ask you, before Mr Steyn got there, was there already a backlog?
Mr McKay: Yes. He arrived on 6 April, and we sent in a team on 15 April. That is why I said that in my opinion, he had just arrived there at the time and clearly it was something he had inherited and had not acclimatised to the post.
Mr Hoosen: So, it was not really his fault?
Mr McKay: No.
Mr Hoosen: But he was moved to another embassy?
Mr McKay: Remember, the 2014 backlog was then cleared by the team who came back, then in 2015 we ran into similar problems again.
Chairperson: So the 2015 backlog was not Mr Steyn’s fault? In your submission in your file, you have given us a picture. I take it this was the backlog in India?
Mr McKay: No, it is the filing system in India. Those are adjudicated files.
Chairperson: Many of them. Mr Steyn found them there and left them there?
Mr Hoosen: May I just say that the filing system appears to be a very advanced system, and I mean that sarcastically -- it is not a very good image of the Department.
Chairperson: Let us proceed.
Mr Hoosen: I am leaving Mr Steyn’s matter, because I want to move on and I have ascertained what we wanted to and that is the decision to move Mr Steyn did not come from you, it came from Minister Gigaba. The reason I was asking you that question is because when Mr Christians was here before -- and I think you were here during that time -- I pointed out to him a copy of an email that he sent to Mr Chawla where he kind of complained, if I can put it that way, bringing to Mr Chawla’s attention that somebody seemed to be blocking his appointment. In fact, the exact words he wrote were ‘Bhiya” –remember, I questioned him what Bhiya meant, and he said someone had sent this to me unofficially. It seemed there was a fight with HR and FOC over issuing the letter to me. He is now writing to a third party, someone completely outside of the Department, and I think we can ascertain that the purpose of that email was kind of calling on his intervention, because a number of officials had already indicated that Mr Chawla carried a certain amount of clout at the Home Affairs Department, and Mr Christians too knew that he was an influential person and hoped that he would do something about the email. We then heard evidence that there was a line of communication between Mr Chawla and the Minister’s office when it came to the unblocking of visa applications. So the relationship was already there between the Minister’s office and Mr Chawla, and it was one of those things that he was possibly going to ask the Minister to unblock. That is the way I see it, and the link now to why Minister Gigaba said remove Mr Steyn. It had nothing to do with competency and nothing to do with the backlog -- it was there and it is still there, like you have it in many other embassies. But somebody needed to provide some sort of reason of why we were moving Mr Steyn, and the only reason they could come up with was three things, none of which made the link and not a single person mentioned that in fact Mr Steyn got a bonus -- going to Munich, that was it. The real reason why he was moved had absolutely nothing to do with incompetence, workload, service delivery, or a breakdown in relationships, as far as I am concerned. Do you understand that?
Mr McKay: Well, that is your assertion which I can’t dispute, but I understand your logic with hindsight and with the information that you have at your disposal, which I did not have at my disposal.
Chairperson: At that time when Mr McKay was dealing with the matter, he did not have that information. Now you have the information at your disposal. People have given evidence before this Committee. You are now aware. The point Mr Hoosen is making is that by the time Mr Christians requested an intervention from Mr Chawla, there seemed to be a blockage and he had already sent his CV to the Guptas. It seemed a case of submit your CV, and we will then start the processes for you to come back to the New Delhi offices. That CV was not innocent, and we now know that a number of people had gone through the Guptas to submit their CVs. I am not trying to say you should agree with me, but I am saying that that is some kind of conclusion we are coming to when we deal with Mr Christians. Beyond that, we deal with his performance now that Mr Steyn, who was firm, had been removed. Even if you can find backlogs, it was confirmed that the majority of these backlogs were applications that did not comply, and this was what caused the backlog. Mr Steyn made it very clear he worked by the book, and more than 200 applications were rejected per month.
You now send Mr Christians, and everything is fine. Things are now happening. He is dealing with the mine, and having coffee with the Guptas. Everything is beautiful and smooth. People are coming to the country. Sundaram confirmed in his affidavit that fraudulent visas were then being processed. It’s a holiday now, because the right person was there who could perform. There are no more problems, because Mr Steyn is gone and Mr Christians is there.
We are working towards a conclusion, even though Mr Chawla and Mr Apleni are still going to come. We now know the things we want from Mr Apleni. At the level of our engagement with you on this deployment and redeployment, and the activities that happened that informed all of these redeployments, are worrisome. The fact is that they were based on an allegation that was not founded, and you were able to remove the person. For him it was okay -- that is why he did not complain, and he gave the reasons why he was happy to leave India and go to Munich. He was excited -- not about work and not about problems of a breakdown in a relationship. If we had time, I was definitely going to call the former Ambassador to come here, together with these two officials, to explain himself. It just did not make sense. You make certain allegations against someone who has served this country diligently for 30 years. We make an allegation that there is a breakdown of a relationship, therefore one has to move away. How do you do that? Sundaram, in his affidavit and the book that he wrote, says that the flood gates were then open. They were bringing in ordinary labourers who were not paid here -- they were paid in India rupees. They would come here in their numbers to build the studio and would go back to India with false applications. Everybody in this Department knows that the majority of labourers who were employed against South Africans came here with false visas, and were made to go and live in Midrand and work non-stop for 24 hours. After that, they were sent to India and were paid there. What they did when they arrived at immigration was that they paid a fine, and were given money to pay the fine. Sundaram wrote that to the Committee of Parliament, and told us this is what happened. Who opened the flood gates for these people to come and do as they wanted, and leave? This is what happened under the Immigration department without you knowing, Mr McKay. These were the things that were happening behind you, and that is why Mr Kobese and the rest of these people had so much access to Mr Chawla personally and in business. Did you have any relationship with Mr Chawla?
Mr McKay: No, I don’t know him. I have no relationship with him. I have no knowledge of him. I have never interacted with him and cannot recall knowingly speaking to anyone called Mr Chawla.
Chairperson: It is only the officials under you that know him, because all the officials said they know Mr Chawla. Mr Steyn knows him -- he has spoken with him. Mr Kobese has spoken to him, as has Mr Christians and a number of people. He is the one who facilitated the applications for early naturalisation of the Gupta family. That is the person we are dealing with, both in the civic services and at the level of the DG and that other level. Everyone knows him. It is only you who has not met him, yet he is the man doing things in your Department which you are in charge of under Immigration. He has been doing all of these things.
Mr Hoosen: We have ascertained now that the decision to move Mr Steyn was taken at a meeting with the Minister, and was proposed by the Minister. We also agree there was no evidence, as far as you are concerned, from anybody that showed incompetence on the part of Mr Steyn anywhere whatsoever, correct?
Mr McKay: Well, I can’t agree on the incompetence, as there were serious challenges regarding service delivery.
Mr Hoosen: But you have nothing in front of you that says Mr Steyn did only one application from 09:00 to 17:00, for an example?
Mr McKay: No, I don’t have anything like that, but he was responsible for the mission at the time. If there were complaints, I didn’t see any requests, maybe at Ms Mnyaka’s level, to send people over there because there were serious problems. The only time I got to hear of it was when there were complaints coming in all of a sudden around service delivery. Then we had to scurry around and get a team there, and that in itself was challenging, having to get people to go and do relief duty all the time, because people were not readily available. That was why I just made a decision that we needed a team that was able to be highly deployable and be able to go and assist.
Mr Hoosen: That was to provide support to the existing staff you had? It didn’t necessarily mean that they weren’t doing their job, right?
Mr McKay: No, not necessarily that they were not doing their jobs. It wasn’t that there were 3 000 applications received and 200 were done, or something like that. It was just that the turnaround time that it took for them to process the applications was too long.
Mr Hoosen: The reason I am asking you this, Mr McKay, is that when you arrived at the very beginning you went to great lengths to try and justify the decision. You read out an email message from somebody about a complaint, and I take it you have received other complaints about the workload and slow pace of turnaround from travel agents. But you knew when you were saying all of that, that none of those complaints were directly related to Mr Steyn’s deployment there?
Mr McKay: What makes you say that?
Mr Hoosen: I am asking.
Mr McKay: I am asking, what makes you say that?
Mr Hoosen: You are unable to produce a single piece of evidence, a complaint. If you do, I will withdraw and ask another question. With the exception of the High Commissioner, no travel agent, no individual would have written to you any messages like you have read out like: Dear Mr McKay, this gentlemen is not doing his job. You do not have that, but when you arrived earlier you tried to make a case for why Mr Steyn was moved. However, in reality the decision wasn’t yours -- the decision was Minister Gigaba’s -- and so what you were trying to do was to convince us of why the decision was taken, when in actual fact it wasn’t your decision. You were defending the Minister’s decision. Isn’t that true?
Mr McKay: I wouldn’t say that is true. What I tried to do here was to prove that there were problems happening at the mission, and that the decision taken by the Minister was an operational one at the time.
Chairperson: The point that is made is that you don’t have any formal written complaint other than the SMS that you received from Deputy Director of Tourism. Do you have any written complaints that you have received that you can produce?
Mr McKay: No, they would not talk to Mr Steyn, They would say that they were waiting for visas, the turnaround time…
Chairperson: Which is normal? It happens internationally? It’s normal?
Mr Hoosen: That is the exact point I wanted to make -- that it is normal. Let’s move on. I am satisfied with the answer that you have given. I want to come back to the point on BLS International. I want to remind you that I handed to you the only copy I had, at the time, of an email from a company called BLS, and in that email she writes to you thanking you for meeting with her and Minster Gigaba. Again, BLS International is a company that provides visa facilitation services, very much like VLS does. You won’t able to recall that meeting, which incidentally was around May 2015. What I find quite interesting is why this company would copy and send that email to Mr Tony Gupta, bringing it to his attention that here was a copy of the email that she sent to Mr Jackie McKay, and in the email she thanked him and Minister Gigaba for meeting with us. You have responded to that, saying you now recall that meeting. It happened at the Minister’s office on 24 April. Can you maybe just explain what went on there?
Mr McKay: Firstly, let me put it into perspective. When you produced that email, it had nothing to do with this inquiry, and at the time I was not prepared. I didn’t know it was just something that you had sprung on me. I couldn’t respond to something that was just pushed at me -- I would have to look at it and we were busy dealing with other matters at the time. I said to you I couldn’t recall an email like this, and that I would have a look at it. I was not trying to dodge an issue, as I think you are trying to intimate. It was just that at that particular time, I couldn’t link BLS and the Gupta inquiry.
Chairperson: So, are you responding to that now?
Mr McKay: Yes, I am going to respond to that.
Chairperson: Okay, respond to it and let’s hear what you are going to raise.
Mr McKay: You have my response, right?
Mr Hoosen: Yes.
Mr McKay: I went through all my emails that I received at the time and indeed I was invited to a meeting between BLS and our Ministry on 24 April 2015. At that particular meeting, BLS did a presentation to those that were there at that meeting about services that they can render to the Department.
Chairperson: Who was at that meeting?
Mr McKay: It was myself, the Minister, the Ministerial staff, and I had with me Mr Jack Moledi from the Department,
Mr Hoosen: Which Ministerial staff were there?
Mr McKay: Staff from the Ministry. It would be the Minister’s support staff that would be in the meeting.
Mr Hoosen: You don’t remember their names?
Mr McKay: I think Mr Msomi would have been there. There would have been registers for the Ministry, so they should be record; it would be the Chief of Staff that was there as well at that particular meeting. These guys came and they made the presentation to us. After the presentation was made, they asked if there were questions about this and that, and that is where we left it. I left it at that. For me, it was a meeting that I had been invited to. There was a company doing a pitch about their services that they rendered, and we left.
Chairperson: Who invited you to the meeting?
Mr McKay: The Minister.
Chairperson: Where was this meeting held?
Mr McKay: At the Ministry.
Mr Hoosen: So Minister Gigaba sent you an email saying, please come to the meeting?
Mr McKay: His staff.
Mr Hoosen: Who was it?
Mr McKay: Ms France.
Mr Hoosen: I assume she did that on the instruction of Minister Gigaba?
Mr McKay: I wouldn’t know that. All it said was a meeting with BLS International Services on visa application processes, with venue, date and time.
Mr Hoosen: No explanation?
Mr McKay: No explanation. I think I did forward the email. No explanation.
Chairperson: I understand that there is now correspondence between you and Mr Hoosen on this matter.
Mr McKay: No, I responded to the Committee.
Mr Hoosen: You know, what I find fascinating is that I understand that there was an invitation and someone wanted to make a pitch -- but what link does Tony Gupta have with that?
Mr McKay: I have no idea. When you showed me this thing and who it was addressed to, because you read it and asked me how did an email to me find its way to the Guptas? There was nothing in that meeting that led me to believe that. This for me was BLS -- a renowned international company coming to make a pitch -- so why they would send it? I can’t answer that question. What I can say to you is that the matters that we raised in there, like follow up meetings, never happened. Nor did I ever respond to this email that was sent. Firstly, I couldn’t find this particular email that you showed me in my records, but I checked all our emails and there were countless emails from this company in 2016, 2017 and 2018 directed not only at me, but at all the senior management in the Department. The emails asked who we could refer the company to, when we were going out on tender, and when this or that was happening. All of these were sent to everyone in the Department. From my office, we never responded.
Chairperson: Where was the Director General of Home Affairs in this meeting?
Mr McKay: He was not at the meeting.
Chairperson: Why was he not in the meeting?
Mr McKay: I don’t know if he was invited, or whether he couldn’t attend. I can’t answer that.
Mr Hoosen: You say it was yourself, Mr Moledi, and ministerial staff. Was the Minister at that meeting?
Mr McKay: Yes.
Mr Hoosen: Do you remember the names of the people from BLS that were there?
Mr McKay: No, I can’t recall the names.
Chairperson: Where is Mr Moledi?
Mr McKay: He left the Department some years ago?
Chairperson: How did he leave the Department?
Mr McKay: He resigned.
Chairperson: What was the problem?
Mr McKay: He resigned to go into business. He is an egg farmer.
Chairperson: Was it anything to do with a contract for this particular company? There was nothing? There was no investigation -- there was nothing, he just resigned and he left?
Mr McKay: He just resigned and left, and said that he was going into egg farming.
Chairperson: In that meeting, there was yourself, the Minister, the staff of the Minister and Jack Moledi. And the Director General of Home Affairs -- who was the Director General then? Mr Alpeni?
Mr McKay: Yes.
Chairperson: And he was not invited to this meeting?
Mr McKay: I don’t know if he was invited or not.
Chairperson: Does this company have its head office here in South Africa?
Mr McKay: I don’t know.
Chairperson: Who is this company?
Mr McKay: I don’t know. You must ask the Gupta family. I honestly don’t know.
Chairperson: No, I am going to get to this point -- that after the meeting, they then wrote to inform the Guptas of the outcome of the meeting. That is my interest now. This will have to be further probed. For now, it will be in this present form, but this is a very serious matter that will require us to spend a little bit more time just to reflect on it.
Mr Hoosen: I just find it fascinating that the Minister of Home Affairs, given that every official receives almost dozens of emails from BLS International, and they all ignore them and just go on with their jobs, but the Minister takes them seriously. Possibly it was because there was a member of the Gupta family involved in facilitating that meeting. That is the way I see it, and you were called to the meeting for the presentation. So, I find it fascinating that a Minister would be involved directly with a potential supplier to the Department. That is a conflict of interest, especially if that company was going to be submitting a tender to the Department. Do you agree with me?
Mr McKay: Well, that is your view. I don’t know whether that is a correct view because firstly, like I said to you the last time, from this invitation that I received there was no real message that said what is the meeting was all about and what would be discussed there.
Mr Hoosen: I understand you probably didn’t know the reasons why you were going there. You are fairly familiar with the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), and the interference with the executive authority in tenders and those processes. You are familiar with that?
Mr McKay: Yes.
Mr Hoosen: If BLS were, for an example, to be granted a tender and it were to get out to the public domain that the Minister had met with them prior to the tender being advertised, that would allow a strong appeal from any one of the other companies who had tendered, isn’t that true?
Mr McKay: I suppose. Yes, that would be true, but I can’t sit here and tell you that the Minister knew what was going to happen in that meeting.
Mr Hoosen: I understand. I am not asking you to answer for the Minister, I am asking you what your view is, based on the potential for risk to the Department. If BLS were to be granted a tender in the future, any other competing company would have a very strong case for an appeal, given that the Minister engaged you and Mr Moledi, somebody who was directly involved in the tender for the VLS tender. That would be hugely embarrassing to the Department and a strong case for an appeal. Isn’t that true?
Mr McKay: It would be a problem for that company itself if they had to go and bid and they had already pitched to the Department. Let’s not even go to the Minister.
Mr Hoosen: But it goes both ways if it is a problem for the Department.
Chairperson: I can see that it is getting very hot, and I have a particular interest in this and I propose we park it and come back to it. It may not be today. Let us flag this issue. It has a particular interest that I have identified. Let’s park it and move on. It is now 21:40 and our target was that we would finish here at about midnight. I know that the Minister is not going to be available tomorrow.
I want us to be fair that most of the engagements that we have had with Mr McKay were mostly around the transfer of staff, deployment and redeployment. Before we get to any other point now, can you talk to us about the list of the Guptas in the country? How many are in the country, and what status do they have in the country? Colleagues who are going to ask questions, if you don’t mind I will give you each one question for Mr McKay, since Ms Mkhaliphi and Mr Hoosen have both advanced a number of points for the Committee, so if there are still outstanding matters, let’s shelf them. We are still going to have the last bite in December, as we have agreed. We may have to recall Mr McKay to further clarify certain matters, if we still want to do that.
I have a particular interest in this company informing the Guptas of the outcome of the meetin,g so we may want to reflect on this seriously as a Committee and then take a position on it. Bear in mind that we have already one or two people that we may still want to engage. Ms Nomzamo Mnyaka comes to mind quite very sharply, but when I look at the affidavits and the letters with the Minister, Ms Mnyaka is the one that facilitated those submissions and I think those submissions speak volumes to the involvement of the office of the Minister, DIRCO and others. We will then have to look at that particular area, and at some point maybe the Committee will have to decide on the way forward we may want to take. We are not rushing into anything. We are not rushing to make a conclusion. We know that we are pressed with time. Even if we don’t close the report, we may recommend that the incoming Committee will have to close it for us. We still have a lot of committee days next year in January, and before the opening of Parliament there are the two weeks that are put aside for the Committee work.
Mr Mavuso: To answer your question on the list of the Gupta family members, it is on the last document of the pack.
Chairperson: BLS is a Gupta-related company, and the joint managing directors are Mr Nikhil Gupta and Mr Shikhar Aggarwal. We have noted this part and we will come back to it. Take us through the list then, quickly?
Mr McKay: I just raised with the DG that this is a list that comes from the MDR. I can’t talk to this list. Civics needs to talk to this list.
Chairperson: The accounting officer will then talk about it. Do we want him under oath, or it is just a list that is being submitted. It is only to talk about it. Who is Civic Services? Is Civic Services here? Do you know anything about this list?
A Civic Services representative said that he was unable to talk about the list, as it was before his time, so the Chairperson asked the DG to talk about it.
Mr Mavuso: We went to the national population register and we looked for anybody whose had the name or surname of Gupta, and the system gave us 62 names. We are not suggesting that these people are related, because we have learned the surname Gupta in India is common as the surname Dlamini in South Africa.
Chairperson: Don’t compare Dlamini and Gupta.
Mr Mavuso: I am just making an example. The list that is in front of you explains that we have 39 of the 62 who are not naturalised. Of the 62, there are only 13 who are naturalised, and 10 were born in South Africa. The 39 who are not naturalised hold permanent residence. That is why, if you look at all the ID numbers, they have 18 numbers instead of eight, which is a depiction of somebody who is a citizen. The last column deals with those who were born in South Africa. If you took at those who were born in South Africa, 10 of them are citizens because they were born to parents who were naturalised. So, that is what constitutes the 62.
Chairperson: How many of those with permanent residence have applied for citizenship?
Mr Mavuso: We have not confirmed that. What we have done is just draw up the list, but we can check the 39 to see if there is anyone who has applied or qualifies. You would also appreciate that not all permanent residents who have exceeded the five years of permanent residence take up the opportunity to apply for naturalisation, particularly people whose country of origin does not allow dual citizenship. We could do an audit of the 39 to see if there has been anyone who has submitted an application for naturalisation.
Chairperson: How many of them have renounced their Indian citizenship?
Mr Mavuso: I don’t want to make an assumption that of the 39 that carry the name Gupta, they are all coming from India, because we do have people who are Guptas that might have come from the UK or any other place. It might be possible a person retains South African citizenship while keeping citizenship in their country of origin.
Chairperson: Go and get us that break down, as you are not talking to what we want to achieve. Go and do thorough research and come back and give us the full information about each one of these people on the list regarding to their status, citizenship, country of origin and all of that. Get that information for us within seven days. There are two lists here -- the list we have and this list you are talking about to us now. You may want to give us one common list. I want a proper breakdown so we know we don’t have Guptas in the country that are illegal that we are still harbouring here.
What we did not get from Mr McKay was a list of all those who worked for Infinity Media, ANN7, and all the Gupta-related companies. I am going to request you to give us a list, and tell us the status of those people. Have they left the country, or are they in the country? It is important for this particular inquiry to arrive at some kind of understanding, because all of these people came under your department.
Ms Dambuza: I still have more questions for Mr McKay, but based on what you have raised I feel that we need to pause Mr McKay again. There are so many questions around this. To remind you, the identity document (ID).
Chairperson: DG, you have not spoken to us about the ID.
Mr Mavuso: In terms of the law, a person can take an ID photograph with spectacles, but not sunglasses. So, what we tried to do was to check that copy specifically, and we could not authenticate whether it was an original or a digitally manipulated copy. If we were able to get an original copy, we would be able to do it. Just to indicate that when you have a green ID book -- at the time we were doing green ID books -- we were not archiving the photos so every time you came and applied, the old photo got replaced by the new photo. With the advanced system that we now have, we are starting to archive photos. An original copy will be able to assist us to authenticate whether he is wearing sunglasses or not, but I can say that there is no person who is able to take an ID with sunglasses.
Chairperson: So currently, what ID does Mr Chawla use now?
Mr Mavuso: For example, if we go to...
Chairperson: I am not asking you for an example. I am asking you a question. What ID does Mr Chawla use? Does he have a smart card?
Mr Mavuso: No, he does not have a smart card.
Chairperson: If I tell you Mr Chawla has a smart card, what are you going to say?
Mr Mavuso: As far as I know, Mr Chawla does not have a smart card.
Chairperson: Come and confirm this for me please?
Mr Mavuso: That is not a smart card.
Chairperson: What is it?
Mr Mavuso: That is a passport. We have not issued a smart card to citizens who are naturalised.
Chairperson: In this passport, does he have sunglasses?
Mr Mavuso: No.
Chairperson: What glasses does he have? Is he wearing glasses, or is he not wearing glasses?
Mr Mavuso: I didn’t even check.
Ms Mkhaliphi: Do you remember when we raised the question as to how Mr Chawla was outside the country, but he ws out on bail? The Department was supposed to come back with that answer for us.
Mr Hoosen: I have asked for this document before. Do you remember that in the initial report on the granting of naturalisation to the Gupta family there were a number of annexures – from annexure A to SSS. There was an annexure L which was an undated annexure. It was a letter from the DG to Mr AK Gupta and family, and in that letter he informed him that his South African citizenship had been conditionally approved and he was requested to submit proof of renunciation of his citizenship. If you could please try and locate the original of that letter, because the copy that we have does not have the dates for some reason, and neither are there dates at the bottom of signature. So it must be on the original I assume, or if you can come back with a date and confirm when this letter was sent.
Chairperson: We want all the applications and the information in terms of which office they came through. I see you are opening files. There is an application here that says this information was lodged in Pretoria. What is Pretoria? It does not say anything -- it simply says Pretoria. If someone applies in Johannesburg, does it just say Johannesburg? How do you deal with it? Does the application go straight to head office when someone applies for naturalisation? Where does a person go if you apply? You go to Civic or you go to the queuem like any other person who is applying. This one looks like it went straight to head office.
Ms Dambuza: You are opening a can of worms now. Let’s agree, because once you open it you must finish, and it will be long.
Chairperson: When we meet in December, Mr Apleni and the acting DG -- unless they reshuffle or redeploy you -- must speak to the matters around these application forms with authority. When you look at the application, the person who applied was Mr Chawla. I am not talking about the appeal. I am talking about the application for naturalisation. The email address given here is chawla@saharacomputer. That is him -- he is the man that applied for early naturalisation. DG, this is not Ajay Gupta, it’s not his sons, it is not the grandmother. It is Mr Chawla who was applying for early naturalisation. I am not talking about the appeal now, on the information that you gave us here. Do you want to explain this, or do you want us to leave you so that when you come back you can explain it in December? This has got nothing much to do with the Minister -- it is at that level there. The stamp that we received was the stamp of head office, so these forms were put in head office and here it says Pretoria where this form was signed -- the place where it was signed, Pretoria. What I know is that some of the forms were signed at Sahara Computers, and when they were supposed to be signed at Home Affairs, they were signed at Sahara Computers, and I will prove it to you. Some of them were signed at Saxonwold -- I will prove it to you at the next meeting. I will give you facts about that, and you know that these are forged forms that you have presented to us. So, we are going to take you under oath with the information that we have here. We will want you to speak on these applications -- who lodged them, did Ajay Gupta go to which office of Home Affairs, and which officer served him. You are going to speak on these things, because we want someone who is going to speak to these things who is the accounting authority, and it so happens to be you. We will send you more detailed information on the other matters as we prepare for the next round. The fact that I will tell you is that there is a difference between the original forms that you have in your file and what you have expedited to us, and we will be happy to receive original documents. We are not going to take them. You will come and present all the original files – originals, not photocopies. You can then take them back after you have presented them to us. We will write to you and tell you all we want, so it is clear that we will meet in December again to clear up and finalise the administrative matters. Those at the level of DDGs, Chief Directors and Supervisors, and Mr Apleni and Mr Chawla, will come in November.
On that note colleagues, can we release Mr McKay? Mr McKay you are not released under oath, you are free now, and you can talk to your colleagues. Thank you very much for the presentation.
Malusi Gigaba, Minister of Home Affairs
The Chairperson welcomed Mr Malusi Gigaba, Minister of Home Affairs, to the meeting to discuss the early naturalisation of the Gupta family. This was not the first time the Committee had interacted with the Minister on this matter, and he had had an opportunity to engage with the Committee from the initial stage. A number of meetings had been held with the Minister, the former Director General and a number of DHA officials who had been made either to confirm, agree or clarify certain matters. This had led to the particular inquiry taking place today. This had been legislated because of the fact that the Committee had not been getting the whole truth through the engagement with the officials of the Department. Therefore, the decision had been taken to hold this inquiry. The Chairperson started the process of engagement with the administering of the oath.
Gupta naturalisation: Minister’s submission
Minister Gigaba said he appreciated the opportunity to present his submission before he took questions from Members of the Committee.
He said he was confident that this process would 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 his involvement in state capture through the granting of citizenship to the Guptas, were without any basis whatsoever.
He wished to record that he was appointed as Minister of Home Affairs for the first time only after the 2014 National Elections, and at no stage during his tenure had he assisted the Gupta family, or any other private interest group, to capture the State. The objective reality was that out of 62 persons with the surname Gupta who were recorded on the Department’s systems, only five were dealt with by him. They were Mr Ajay Gupta, his mother, his wife, and their two sons.
He then went into detail regarding his involvement in the naturalisation process, stressing that at all times due process was followed. There was also no evidence to implicate him in misconduct involving the Guptas. (See attached document)
The Chairperson thanked the Minister for his detailed response to the issues, which were in line with the responses from the Department on the matters raised by the Committee. The process that the Committee had embarked on was to go deeper into the investigation in order to understand at what point the Gupta family entered the country. It had been agreed, with the records that were before the Committee, that the first member of the Gupta family had entered the country in 1994. The rest of them had then followed. For that reason, it knew that during that time and as far back as before the democratic government, the first arrival was during the tenure of Minister Manie Schoeman who was in charge of the Department of Home Affairs in 1994, before the elections. This information had been made available by the Department. From the last point the Minister had made on Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA), it was clear there was nothing sufficient on him in the leaked emails except the fact that most of his officials were linked to the leaked Gupta emails, and most of them had confirmed some of these emails, to the extent that they had sent highly confidential information of the state to Mr Chawla, based on the relationship that they had with him.
Most of the matters the Committee was dealing with at the administrative level had not been concluded. The intention was to have the former accounting officer of the Department, Mr Mkuseli Apleni, to deal with the full detail and due diligence that was made in the applications. The Committee was aware that at the level of Minister, he did not deal with due diligence, but only dealt with the end product when the submission was made to him. The process was not over. The Committee was still going to call Mr Apleni, and the applicant who happened to be Mr Chawla in the letter of 29 April 2015.
The Chairperson said he wanted to talk more about the letter, because in the Minister’s response he had made mention that this information of early naturalisation had been launched in the Department with the junior officials. He asked the Minister to talk in more detail about Mr Chawla’s letter. The letter spoke of three people -- the grandmother of the children, and the two sons of Ajay Gupta. The Minister may want to talk further, now that he had made comments around how this matter was brought before him and how it had been received by junior officers. The Committee’s impression so far, from the engagements that it had had, was that the application by Mr Chawla on the Oakbay letterhead had been launched in the Minister’s office, and he had then referred it the Department to work on. This was the only area the Committee was especially interested in -- especially those who the Minister had naturalised early, who happened to be the family of five. He asked the Minister to take the Committee through how the Department had dealt with the application.
Minister Gigaba had made mention of the submission that had been made by the Director General of the Department. The Committee was aware that Civic Services, together with Mr Apleni and the Minister, had signed the early naturalisation of the Gupta family. Mr Apleni had not indicated his approval, but had put his signature. He asked the Minister to comment on this, particularly his concerns, because when he received a submission from the Director General, it should give him a specific guide as to whether he approved or he did not approve. The Committee was aware that the Director General did not indicate when the option was given to him whether he approved or did not approve. It was only during the Committee engagements that he confirmed, under oath, that he had concurred, after he had been pressed. What implications did it have for the application? He asked the Minister to focus on the application by Mr Chawla that had been addressed to him, where he had agreed to grant citizenship based on the letter.
Minister’s responses to Committee questions
Minister Gigaba: On the officials being involved and linked to the leaked emails, the former Director General had written them letters asking for explanations on the implication of the leaked emails. They responded and I am sure he would be able, when he presents to the Committee, to explain how they responded, but subsequent to that and given information, we were aware that the acting Director General was undertaking another internal process to send out the letters so that we could undertake further internal processes. There would be follow-up processes in that regard. The letter for early naturalisation was not submitted to my office -- it went to a junior official in the Department who then communicated with Mr Chawla and explained to him the requirements for early naturalisation. There was then communication exchanged, and by the time the matter was set before me, it was after there had been a process followed by the Department leading up to the adjudication committee process. All the internal processes had been fulfilled, and there were recommendations placed before me. I applied my mind to the proposal and the recommendations. It was a matter of cause that the letter for early naturalisation, though it was addressed to the Minister, was not submitted to the Ministry. It was submitted to the Department. I don’t know how the official concerned was identified, but it was by the applicant. I have not met that official, nor have I asked what the role of the official in the Department was, but I take it that he was one of the officials who dealt with such matters, and therefore I take it that this was how the letter got to him and was then submitted through the Department’s processes.
All the due processes of the Department were followed, and not a single step was overlooked. The first application for naturalisation was submitted in 2013, and it was not processed. The next application for the five people who came in 2014, the Department packaged as a family application. The Department had been dealing with such applications in relation to other families, and other applications had been served before court. Where you deal with such family applications, I am advised by the Department that people in the application indicate their relationship with one another. So, when the Department considers these applications they could establish the kinship of the persons applying and group them together as families. In some instances, courts have ruled against the Department and have said the Department had been separating families. The Department had become sensitive to family applications and tried, by all means, to ensure family applications were treated as such, and it tried to ensure families are not separated. This was why, even though this application for early naturalisation had been submitted in reference to three people, because the people who had applied for naturalisation were five and were family members, it then grouped them together and dealt with them as such. This was how it dealt with all of them as a family. Even in that regard, following all the due processes in terms of section 5(9)(a) of the Citizenship Act, it ensured that after the adjudication was finalised and conditions for exceptional circumstances were considered, they were still subject to renunciation of citizenship of the country of origin if they were to be offered South African citizenship. All the steps were taken in terms of South African law and regulation so that we did not violate our own laws and regulations. This was when Ajay Gupta refused to renounce Indian citizenship and was then not offered South African citizenship, based on which he remains till this day -- not a South African citizen. The Citizenship Act, as amended, does not say what should then happen in this case to that person’s permanent residence. It does not say that a person’s permanent residence would lapse. It just says if they don’t renounce the citizenship of another country, they revert to the permanent residence permit and continue as a permanent resident.
Regarding the submission that came from the Director General, in the natural course of processes in the Department, if the DG was not recommending approval to me, the submission would have been returned to the Department. Once it leaves the DG’s office and comes to me, it is presumed the DG is recommending to the Minister for approval. Therefore, I took it as a recommendation for approval and signed off because had the DG not been recommending, it would have gone back to the Department with the DG’s comments for further consideration before it was processed back to me. This was how I signed off and considered the submission with the DG’s signature without him signing off on ‘recommendation’ or ‘not recommendation,’ because had he not been recommending to me he would have sent it back to the Department.
Chairperson: What would have been the process then if this letter from Mr Chawla had been submitted directly to your office? I know that the Department mostly deals with naturalisation. I was invited to an event not so long ago where more than a thousand people were naturalised, and there was a big ceremony in the Birchwood Hotel. The junior official received a letter that was totally not addressed to himself. Both himself, Civic Services, the DG engaged themselves in a letter that was not addressed to them -- and then included people who were not even part of the letter. I understand the argument that the court always finds that the Department separates the families, but at the end of the day, the head of the family then refused to renounce his citizenship of India, but his family would remain South African citizens. What does this tell us?
I want to understand the engagement with the letter by the officials of the Department. This letter was not addressed to them. They found it necessary that they engage and set up an adjudication committee led by Mr Sikakane. They processed the letter and went to the DG, who did not indicate whether he approved or not approved -- he just put his signature. On a serious matter of this nature, he put his signature without indicating that he approved. But this letter was not addressed to them. I really want to understand what informed them, and I want the former accounting officer to speak to this. The letter does not say “Mr Apleni,” “Mr Mkhize” -- it does not say anyone. Neither does it say “Mr Sikakane” or “Major Kobese.” It was addressed to the Minister. Who was the official that received the letter? What level was the official? The officials get themselves involved and include people who were not in the letter, and then come at the end and say, “Minister, sign here, we have now approved the application.” Was it not puzzling to you that people signed and engaged on a matter not addressed to them?
Minister: In the normal course of events, we receive many requests in the Ministry. When we receive them, we compile them and deposit them within the Department with the relevant unit -- Civic Services, Immigration Services, Counter Corruption, Human Resources -- without prescribing to them how they should attend to the matter. We just simply deposit them and say, “Here are queries that have been referred to the Ministry, please attend to them,” and from here onwards you liaise directly with the client who had submitted the query with the Ministry and deal with them henceforth. The official did what he was supposed to do. Even though the letter was addressed to the Minister, it was the official’s duty to start the engagement with the client, because the Minister would have forwarded it to the relevant unit in the Department. It would have landed on his desk, and he would have had to start the engagement and prepare the process moving forward. He then acted on it as he was supposed to, and ensured that it went through all the necessary channels as he was supposed to.
The rejection earlier was for naturalisation and that had been concluded. The application thereafter was for early naturalisation, considering exceptional circumstances. It was not an appeal taking forward the earlier rejection. It was now a new application on section 5(9)(a), and no longer on section 5(1). On section 5(1), it had already been rejected on the basis that two members of the family had exceeded the time frame required for them not to be outside the country for a certain period. They did not appeal the decision, and we were obviously not going to agree. We were going to say to them, there was no basis for us to review. They then applied on section 5(9)(a) to consider exceptional circumstances – that they were investing in the country -- and for the following reason, on exceptional circumstances, to grant them early naturalisation. This was what the Department then looked at, and based on which, they then made recommendations which were subsequently approved. What I am saying is that the official himself did not do anything wrong. He did what he was supposed to do and followed the process. He did not overstep his authority and took the initiative he was supposed to take and ensure that those above him were there to act as checks and balances in case he himself had done anything he was not supposed to do. He could have been rebuked or repudiated had he overstepped his authority.
Mr M Hoosen (DA): May I ask you a very direct question? How would you describe your relationship with the Gupta family, or any member of the Gupta family?
Minister Gigaba: In what way? Just be specific, an example.
Mr Hoosen: Explain how you would describe it. You were invited to the Diwali function and I gather there must have been some connection there. So how would you describe your relationship with them?
Minister Gigaba: As you say I went to a Diwali function. I was invited to a wedding. So, I am trying to figure out what exactly you were asking me.
Mr Hoosen: I am asking you to describe your relationship with any member of the Gupta family. How would you describe it?
Minister Gigaba:In what way?
Mr Hoosen: Were they your friends? Your colleagues? Were they just acquaintances? How would you describe it?
Minister Gigaba:I think I have explained it in the submission I made today.
Mr Hoosen: I am asking you to explain it to me.
Minister Gigaba: I have explained it.
Mr Hoosen: I ask that the Minister just answer the question. I don’t see anywhere in his submission where he describes his relationship with the Gupta family, and it is not a difficult question. If there isn’t a relationship, then you say there isn’t one?
Minister Gigaba: I have explained it in the submission which I have made here. I think the Member would be well advised to refer to the submission.
Mr Hoosen: Could you point me to that page?
Minister Gigaba: I will. Start on page 13, paragraph two. I go to lengths to explain it.
Mr Hoosen: On page 13 you refer to Mr Chawla -- there was no Gupta there.
Minister Gigaba: On page 13 I refer to the invites to events. I talk to OUTA singling me out in relation to events, and I say that there were Ministers and many other political figures. I talk to how I interact with many stakeholders as a public representative. It is there.
Mr Hoosen: I follow that it still does not tell me what I am asking you. The simple question is, how you would you describe your relationship with the Gupta family? I am not getting that answer.
Minister Gigaba: I did. Have I not explained? I believe that I have. I think you are asking me to explain to you what you want me to say, but I believe I have said what I needed to say. If you further go to page 18, paragraph seven.
Chairperson: Was there someone that said “number seven” here? Please allow the Minister to answer. He can speak for himself.
Mr Thulani Mavuso, Acting Director General, DHA: Apologies.
Chairperson: Take us to the paragraph.
Minister Gigaba: Page 18 refers to the matter of leaked Gupta emails, suggesting visas were expedited for the Guptas. So, I further explain there were no special favours that were done for the Guptas.
Mr Hoosen: I am not asking you what favours you did. I am asking you to just simply describe what your relationship with the Gupta family is? It is not a case of ‘I have never met them,’ or ‘I have never seen them.’ You explained about Mr Chawla, and I accept your version. But when it comes to the Gupta family, it is different. They invited you to their home. They invited you to their wedding. So there is some form of relationship, whatever you want to call that relationship, and I am asking you to describe it for me. I do not accuse you of something that you are not guilty of. If you could just please describe your relationship with the Gupta family.
Minister Gigaba:Now I understand you. I refer you then to page 19, paragraph four. Again, it was not a personal relationship. It was a professional relationship. As a public representative, it was my role, as I indicated, to interact with as many stakeholders as possible -- to be accessible and listen to their perspective. It doesn’t stand to reason that I am beholden to them because I have interacted in a space where there were many other people. I have been to their home where I was invited to functions in the presence of many other public representatives and private individuals. Therefore, there was no evidence of corruption in that regard. So, I hope that answers you.
Mr Hoosen: It has been very helpful. Thank you very much. So, you would describe it as a professional relationship with them?
Minister Gigaba: Yes, not personal.
Mr Hoosen: When you say “them,” you were referring to who in particular? Was it Atul Gupta or Ajay Gupta?
Minister Gigaba: I referred to the invitation -- the people who would have invited me.
Mr Hoosen: Who would have invited you?
Minister Gigaba: The invitation did not say.
Chairperson: No dialogue please. I know that you are probing but let us not create dialogue. Let’s allow a question and then allow the person to respond. We want to have a clear record of this engagement.
Mr Hoosen: Who invited you particularly? Was it Ajay Gupta or Atul Gupta?
Minister Gigaba: The invitation would have said you were invited to….it doesn’t say specifically by who.
Mr Hoosen: Do you remember the invitation?
Minister Gigaba: I didn’t keep them.
Mr Hoosen: How do you then remember what it said?
Minister Gigaba: Because they would come to the office and I presume they would say you are invited to something like this. I mean, they don’t come to me, so they wouldn’t say you were invited by whom.
Mr Hoosen: There wouldn’t have been an RSVP?
Minister Gigaba: The RSVP wouldn’t be done by me either.
Chairperson: The point, therefore, Mr Hoosen, was that the office would then keep the record or inform the Minister of the invite and the level of these invites were professional invites. It’s an open invite that comes via the office. It’s not a private invite. There was never any other relationship other than work relationships. The invites would go to the office and the office would receive them. Minister, how would you then get informed that there was an invite for you for dinner at such a place tonight?
Minister Gigaba: The invite would obviously come to the office. It would then come to me -- “Minister, you have the following invitation; do we confirm or do we not confirm?” I then decide to confirm things where I do have the time to attend, and sometimes you consider things on a professional or religious or social cohesion basis, because you are a politician. You try to balance the events that you attend because on some occasions you want to promote social cohesion in terms of events you want to attend. So, you would consider the events that you choose to attend. That would be the basis and those events would be confirmed, but of course if you don’t have the time you don’t confirm those events. Obviously, you don’t confirm every invite that you receive, especially given the fact that most of the time you prioritise your work so that the time you have is more dedicated to your work, rather than the events you were invited to. When you have the time on occasions then, yes, you may and do confirm invitations for various purposes.
Mr Hoosen: On the occasion of the Diwali function, for example, I gather it was for professional reasons? You would have had a professional relationship with them?
Minister Gigaba: That would have been for social cohesion reasons. Remember, I am from KwaZulu-Natal. I have grown up and studied at the University of Westville. I have friends and comrades of Indian descent who belong to the Hindu and Muslim religion and culture. Therefore, these would be events I would have attended before. So, I would have, for my own political and social cohesion reasons, attended before. This would not be for the first time I attended.
Mr Hoosen: I understand. During your term as Minister, how many other Diwali invitations that you received had you responded positively to?
Minister Gigaba: I would have attended a few others. There were not a lot, because as I say, you try to balance the events that you attend. There were a lot of invitations and there was not much time that you have, but at the same time you have a lot of work that you try to do, including trying to have your own private time with the family.
Chairperson:These invites were not only for Diwali. We do have invites other than from the Gupta family and Diwali -- was this what you are saying?
Minister Gigaba: Yes
Mr Hoosen: Could you recall any other invitations that you received for Diwali celebrations while you were Minister of Home Affairs?
Minister Gigaba: Not while I was Minister of Home Affairs, but before.
Mr Hoosen: I am referring to during the term you were Minister of Home Affairs.
Minister Gigaba: Twice when I was Minister of Home Affairs.
Mr Hoosen: So am I correct the only Diwali functions you attended, twice, when you were Minister of Home Affairs, for social cohesion reasons, would have been the Gupta family Diwali functions.
Minister Gigaba: Yes, it would have been one or two.
Mr Hoosen: You attended more than one Diwali function?
Minister Gigaba: Probably one or two.
Mr Hoosen: Do you remember which year it was?
Minister Gigaba: No.
Mr Hoosen: Were both at the Gupta…?
Minister Gigaba: I think one was at the residence and one was at Lenasia.
Mr Hoosen: The one at the residence -- you were referring to which residence?
Minister Gigaba: In Saxonwold.
Mr Hoosen: The famous “Saxonwold Shebeen” -- was that the one you referring to?
Chairperson: No, no don’t use the term!
Mr Hoosen: The other one in Lenasia, do you recall where about it was?
Minister Gigaba: It was at a ground, an open field.
Mr Hoosen: Not at home?
Minister Gigaba: No, it was at an open field.
Mr Hoosen: You said in this submission that you attended the Diwali celebration and there were other cabinet Ministers there. Could you recall who else was there?
Minister Gigaba: I don’t think it is my duty to mention who was there.
Mr Hoosen: But this was your submission.
Minister Gigaba: Yes, but I think it is not necessarily my duty to mention.
Mr Hoosen: You chose to put that in your submission -- “there were other cabinet Ministers there.”
Minister Gigaba: I take it that this inquiry is about the naturalisation of the Gupta family members. I think, let us focus on that. If you want to talk about something else outside that, then let that inquiry be convened for that purpose because now I think we were straying. Let us not stray. Let us focus on this submission, because we were now straying.
Mr Hoosen: No, I ask the questions.
Chairperson: Could we agree, so that we don’t find ourselves creating dialogue. Minister, if you are not able to respond to a question just say so -- that you are not able to respond to that question -- so that we are able to move on. If you are not able to respond we will note it and then maybe get back to it.
Mr Hoosen: I respect the point you making, but I must admit it is a deviation from the manner you have been conducting the inquiry thus far, where you insisted that every person must answer the question that is put to them. This is not something I am pulling out the hat. I would appreciate some support from you.
Chairperson: I thought I was making it easy so that we don’t end up being stuck with being told what we must not focus on. I thought he was probably not able to respond to the question as to which Ministers were there, and he had made mention there were other public representatives, and he had not been able to tell us. I thought that you may not want to waste your time and rather move to the next question that would help us advance what we are trying to do.
Mr Hoosen: I understand you prefer not to release the names of those individuals.
Minister Gigaba: OUTA was also allowed to not answer certain questions. You know very well that you are trying to create an exception for me that you did not try to create for OUTA.
Mr Hoosen: Let me tell you what I am trying to do. I am trying to give you the opportunity to tell the country that you genuinely don’t have any involvement with them.
Minister Gigaba: I do not have any involvement, and I think I have explained it in my submission and I have just repeated it now.
Mr Hoosen: You must give me a chance to explain to you what I am trying to do.
Minister Gigaba: Well I have pre-empted you.
Chairperson: No, please, could we have order. Minister, please try not to create dialogue. Allow Mr Hoosen to ask you questions. Give him a chance to ask you questions and then respond accordingly.
Mr Hoosen: I want all of us to be clear. The principle we have agreed on is that everybody must be heard. Questions must be heard and questions must be responded to. Let’s proceed in that manner.
I respect the fact that you don’t want to release the names of the Ministers, but I also need you to understand you have an opportunity to be able to come clean on all the information. If you don’t want to reveal it, then people would make up their own minds, and when they do make up their own minds, as you complained, because there was no evidence, you understand why they do that.
Minister Gigaba: I would like Mr Hoosen to ask questions about the naturalisation of the Gupta family members and not stray from the purpose of this inquiry. I would like us to focus on the purpose of the inquiry and not things which are unrelated to the inquiry.
Mr Hoosen: I am getting there, but I want to make the point that the whole matter of State Capture and the letter that was brought to our attention by the House Chair, is that this Portfolio Committee needs to probe the involvement of Home Affairs in State Capture. So, with respect, I am of the view that this was directly related to that. Although you don’t want to reveal the names of the people that were there, could you tell us how many Ministers were there at least?
Minister Gigaba: But it is irrelevant to the naturalisation. It is irrelevant. The relevance for this inquiry was the five people of the Gupta family who applied for early naturalisation on the basis of exceptional circumstances. The argument was that these five people were done a favour because they were Gupta family members and the Department was asked to come and explain itself on exactly that allegation. Which other Minister attended the Diwali celebration is irrelevant, because the matter before this inquiry is whether these five family members were done a favour or not. We are here explaining ourselves on that matter -- whether they were done a favour or not a favour. The inquiry must focus on this matter. We have addressed ourselves on that matter and I think we need to focus ourselves on that question and relate it to the naturalisation process and not whether other Ministers or public representatives were there or not there. All that is irrelevant, because they do not bear on the early naturalisation on the basis of exceptional circumstances and what those exceptional circumstances were, and whether the exceptional circumstances were a favour or not.
Mr Hoosen: Okay, fair enough. I get you suggesting I should focus on the naturalisation and that this inquiry shouldn’t be dealing with the other Ministers, but if there was anybody in the country, including the media, or someone who tweets you a message and asks you to reveal those names or those numbers, would you be prepared to do it in that forum?
Minister Gigaba: No, you may make that suggestion for somebody else, but you are not assisting this inquiry. It is my honest suggestion. You are straying from the purpose of this inquiry. Here is an opportunity for you to ask a question relating to this inquiry.
Mr Hoosen: I am.
Minister Gigaba: You have spent the last 20 minutes not asking me a question relating to the inquiry. The letter from the Chair of Chairs on the question whether this Department was involved in State Capture and enabled State Capture by opening the flood gates for Gupta naturalisation is the subject of this inquiry, and that is the matter before us -- on the basis on which you ought to be asking us that question. All the officials of the Department have been sitting here before the Committee trying to answer that question exactly.
Chairperson: Let me ask again to not make the mistake of getting to the level where the Minister would then say this was how you must do an inquiry. This Committee has the right to ask questions it wants to raise to establish your relationship with Gupta family, to get to the bottom of it. We have a right to do that. If there are fair questions you must respond, or we are going to insist that you respond to those questions. Questions you feel you are not able to respond to, we will just note those questions. At the end of the day, we will make our own determination as we close with our report and make the recommendations. Some of the officials that are here we even probed personally about their brothers and the music companies they run. We have done that throughout the whole exercise. The ruling I am making in this regard is, let’s proceed to probe and you respond to questions you can respond to.
Mr Hoosen: You said you attended two Diwali functions and a wedding. Were those the only three functions of the Gupta family that you attended?
Minister Gigaba: Yes, that I could recall off the top of my head.
Mr Hoosen: Is it possible that there could be more?
Minister Gigaba: No.
Mr Hoosen: So, you are definitely sure it was the three?
Minister Gigaba: Yes.
Mr Hoosen: How many times have you been to the Gupta household in Saxonwold?
Minister Gigaba: I would have to check. I can’t recall off the top of my head.
Mr Hoosen: Was it more than once?
Minister Gigaba: It would be more than once, yes.
Mr Hoosen: More than five times?
Minister Gigaba: No, not more than five.
Mr Hoosen: One the occasions, was it the Diwali function.
Minister Gigaba: Yes, it was basically social functions.
Mr Hoosen: On the other occasions, what social functions were they?
It was different. It was over a period of time. Are you asking for the period when I was Minister of Home Affairs?
Mr Hoosen: However many, whether it was before or after.
Minister Gigaba: It was for different social functions. If I knew you were going to ask that question, I would have tried to remember what social functions. They were over a period. I would have tried to remember when and what it was about, but they were over a period.
Mr Hoosen: You can’t remember what they were?
Minister Gigaba: Just social functions.
Mr Hoosen: But you described your relationship with them as professional?
Minister Gigaba: When I say ‘professional,’ I was trying to say it was not personal. We were not buddy-buddy.
Mr Hoosen: On the occasions you visited the house, were all of them during your term as Minister of Home Affairs, or was it even before that?
Minister Gigaba: It was even before that.
Mr Hoosen: Could you recall the first time you went there?
Minister Gigaba: No, I can’t recall.
Mr Hoosen: How many years would it be?
Minister Gigaba: Must be some time ago.
Mr Hoosen: You were appointed in 2014. Would it be way before then?
Minister Gigaba: Yes.
Mr Hoosen: You would have had a relationship you would describe as professional?
Minister Gigaba: You know, when you get invited to an event you don’t necessarily have to have a relationship with people. We get a lot of invitations from all sorts of people, but you don’t necessarily have to have a relationship with those people.
Mr Hoosen: I understand, but I am trying to ascertain whatever you describe the relationship as professional, social, whatever you want to describe it -- it is your right. I am trying to ascertain the extent of the period of time you had this relationship with them. It appears as if it has been probably more than 10 years.
Minister Gigaba: It was over a period of time.
Mr Hoosen: Possibly 10 years or more?
Minister Gigaba: Possibly.
Mr Hoosen: In those 10 years, you say you would have gone to the household approximately six or eight times at most? I won’t hold you to the figures. I understand I am pronouncing on you.
Minister Gigaba: It was five or so. When you get invited, you don’t know that at some point in future you are going to have to count how many times you have been invited. You don’t keep a record of how many times you were being invited. There were probably people to whose residences I have been invited to more often. I have not kept a record of that. With hindsight, one would have to start doing that.
Mr Hoosen: You recall there were two Diwali functions?
Minister Gigaba: You are talking about between 2014 and now?
Mr Hoosen: Prior to 2014, had you been to Diwali functions as well?
Minister Gigaba: Yes, I would have been.
Mr Hoosen: So it would have been more than two?
Minister Gigaba: Yes, if you add the period prior to 2014.
Chairperson: With the current developments, we all know now that a number of people have been there -- we even had the Minister of Finance. Had this thing not come back to you? Just to begin to reflect on your visits to that family particularly, so you can assist the process. Have you not maybe looked back and tried to consult with your diary in the office to check these things? Because it is possible, at the level here, we are dealing with almost similar matters that were dealt with by the Commission. Have you not looked at that particular information?
Minister Gigaba: I could not find that information because we don’t keep diaries from the past.
Mr Hoosen: There were four prominent members of the Gupta family. They were Rajesh Gupta, Atul Gupta, Tony Gupta – and who was the other one? Which one of the Gupta brothers did you have a more professional relationship with?
Minister Gigaba: No, I did not have a more professional relationship with any particular one of them. I would have met one or two or all of them on several occasions, including when I attended the SABC breakfast shows when I was the Minister of Public Enterprises. I would have met them because they would have been there. I don’t know exactly what you mean, ‘a more professional relationship.’
Mr Hoosen: I don’t want to say which one were you closer to, because you described the relationship as professional, so it was the only way I could describe it. I think you get the point I am trying to make. Who were you closer to? Who were you more in contact with?
Minister Gigaba: I was not more in contact with anyone.
Chairperson: There was never a situation where you had an engagement with any of these brothers, separately ot privately? All the engagements were in public, with everyone there? At no point were you in a private meeting with any of the Gupta brothers?
Minister Gigaba: No, we would not have meetings. We would talk. Even when I attended the SABC programme, where you arrive as the Minister and while you were being prepared, they would rise to greet. It would not be a meeting. They would just sit, greet and talk about the show and ask if you were ready, were you prepared? It would just be that.
Mr Hoosen: Have you ever received telephone calls from any one of the Gupta brothers?
Minister Gigaba: To discuss what?
Mr Hoosen: Whatever. Would they have ever called you on your cellphone directly to speak to you about anything in particular?
Minister Gigaba: No. I don’t recall.
Mr Hoosen: Not a single one of them have your cellphone number?
Minister Gigaba: I don’t know if they have my cellphone number, but my cellphone number was also public. I get a lot of calls, so I cannot account for someone having my cellphone number or not.
Mr Hoosen: You don’t recall whether anyone of them at any stage contacted you on your mobile number?
Minister Gigaba: I receive a lot of calls. If a person calls me regularly, I can remember them calling me, but not somebody who calls me once in a while. All I can say is for the past three or four years, I don’t recall any of those brothers calling me on my mobile number, but prior to that I would not recall. If they did, maybe they would have called once or so. My phone was abuzz with telephone calls. Sometimes I sit in meetings and put it on silent or switch it off.
Mr Hoosen: I assure you if you and I had a relationship for over 10 years and we visited each other’s homes, I would recall if you called or not.
Minister Gigaba: It depends on what basis I visit your home. You are trying to create an insinuation that is not there.
Mr Hoosen: Just give an answer.
Chairperson: Okay, dialogue. We have spent one hour and 30 minutes now.
Mr Hoosen: Have you ever met the Gupta family outside of South Africa?
Minister Gigaba: No, never.
Mr Hoosen: I have other questions, but we will deal with them later.
Chairperson: Keep them. For me, it is very important just to go through that engagement of trying to establish a relationship. It was part of the inquiry to see if there was any preferential favour that was done.
o respond to an implied question from Mr Hoosen, no, they have not visited my home.
Ms B Dambuza (ANC): To your knowledge, was there any court case that has been opened against you and the Department by OUTA?
Minister Gigaba: I am not aware.
Ms Dambuza: You referred to the submission that had been prepared by the officials regarding the new application for early naturalisation. There was a previous application which was rejected based on the reason that two people did not qualify. Fine, we agree with that. In this new application, three members applied and it refers to investments and business. I want to know when these kinds of matters were brought before you. Do they just prepare the document and just drop it and leave it? Do none of the senior officials take responsibility and brief you? Do you then read the information from the document and take a decision? Or what steps do you take after getting the submission? Was there any initiative you would take to engage with the relevant official, especially the Director General, because the Director General was the accounting officer? So you need to communicate through the DG. For me, this is very critical because once they mentioned investments, it was very important to you as a politician. So they needed to account to you to prove that they had done due diligence before presenting the information.
Minister Gigaba: There are two steps that we follow when we deal with a submission. The two advisors in my office would go through the submission in labourious detail to check if the officials provided all the relevant supporting documents that I require to make a decision, and engage the Department further for additional information required and provide advice to me for either approval or disapproval. I would also do the same, because ultimately it is my decision. The advice and recommendations from the advisors are not the final decision. It is my decision. If I feel I need to engage the top managers, I would call either the DG or the relevant DDG and talk to them about the submission before me and if they provide me with the information, I then immediately take the decision. If I am not satisfied, I then say to them, “based on your response and the recommendation before me, I suggest you take the submission back”. I obviously would not just hand it back to them, I take it through my office to the DG with my comments, which explains why I have not approved it and what information I require further. That would be through Siyamthanda (administrator in his office), where I would explain to him what information I require from the Department. It then goes back to the Department, and the DG would seek the information and bring it back to me. In relation to this particular submission, I took it in good faith that the Department had sought the relevant information -- if the Department had engaged with SARS to obtain the tax registration requirements of the company, if the Department had engaged with the CIPC to ensure that the company was properly registered, and how many people the company employed. We then take it in good faith, because these are properly accredited and legitimate institutions that we have always been relying upon to provide us with information.
In the course of doing our work, the Department is faced with a challenge of having to balance between expeditiously deciding on applications for business, corporate, tourist visas and other sorts, and having to be meticulous in checking compliance to ensure the applicants meet our requirements. Recently, we had to deal with a challenge of business people demanding -- not maliciously, but in a constructive way -- that we don’t take longer than five days to provide them with business visas upon application. The same applies with companies applying for corporate visas. It applies even to the Members when they say to us that members of their constituency applied for the following documents and have complaints that the Department was taking too long to respond, and please expedite this matter, and we have to expedite it. We have to try and respond speedily without compromising due diligence, but at the same time we must ensure due diligence does not delay the expeditious granting of visas for applicants so we do not impact negatively on investments, business opportunities and processes and other programmes that are going to benefit the economy. It is always a precarious balancing act for the Department, and that is why we have been trying to improve our systems so that we can respond positively to the needs of the economy. We are trying to improve the response of the Department to the needs of the economy.
Chairperson: We will follow up on the points that you have raised. This application we are dealing with from Mr Chawla, on the point that was raised by Ms Dambuza of having to do proper due diligence, both Civic Services and the Accounting Officer, Mr Apleni, confirmed they did not do proper due diligence in this regard. They did not check who the owners of the company were. No due diligence was ever done. The letter written by Mr Chawla was addressed to you, and at some point, dealt with by a junior official. It was Mr Chawla who applied as a family for early naturalisation, and not Ajay Gupta or his wife or children. We invited the MEC for Education from North West because of the claim made in this letter that 75 schools in the North West were being supported by Okaybay Investments, and that they even buy food for the kids, specifically KFC. Does the law permit that someone who is not an applicant to apply on behalf of people without even having a legal status, perhaps as a lawyer representing the family? The letter comes on a company letterhead, and Mr Chawla does not even specify his position in the company. If he was a director of Okaybay, it means that Okaybay applied for the early naturalisation, and not the family or the three people identified in the application. Could we have a full understanding of this matter so we are able to come to some sort of understanding of the status of the application? What is here before us is an application submitted by the director of a company. You may want to help us now because you have confirmed the process of considering the application. This is where the crux of the matter is, rather than the friendship and visits with the Guptas. I understand that was very critical in this regard, but this is bigger and we must not lose the point.
Ms Dambuza: In your view, what was the urgency that would require this family to apply for early naturalisation? They already had permanent residence within the country. They were already informed as much, as their application was rejected, but there was still an opportunity for them to come and re-apply, and by then the people who were not qualified would have qualified. The application was brought before your office and someone was requesting early naturalisation and had brought a new matter which was not brought in the original application, which was the investments. If this early naturalisation was not granted, what harm would it have caused their business? Would you agree with this Committee that due diligence was not done?
The reason I am raising this question is because it is a critical matter on a supposed huge investment. We have to agree, somehow, that within the Department there had to be a discussion about SARS and CIPC verification. Just to make an example, I have a CIPC certificate but my company is dormant -- it is not operating, but I still have the certificate. The copies of the certificates submitted are not new. There were people who go to SARS every year and their clearance certificates are renewed annually, but you would find that the businesses were not functional due to various reasons. It is important for this inquiry to ascertain the areas that need improvement in the Department. It is one of the objectives. Considering all this, don’t you think there is a lot to be reviewed within the Department in terms of these matters? Until today, we cannot ascertain how many employees were employed by the Gupta family during the period they were applying. The only figure we have is 60 000, but none of the DHA officials are able to explain or confirm with the Department of Labour. Having listened to the Committee’s engagement with the officials, would you agree that due diligence was not done?
Minister Gigaba: As I indicated at the beginning, I have established a review of the governance procedures in the Department with regard to certain matters in Civic and Immigration Services. One of the matters is the letter from Mr Chawla. It is obvious to me the government lapses in regard to this matter and how to proceed forward, not because it was a high profile family, but we need to ensure that we close all the loopholes on the naturalisation process going forward. How we attend to cases of due diligence, perhaps we have to be more specific in the regulations, and related matters would become clearer as to how we conduct due diligence because at the present moment there are no prescriptions on how due diligence must be conducted. It is not explained anywhere. The Department is of the view that we did what we had been doing all along in regard to conducting due diligence when people have been applying for early naturalisation. You go to accredited and credible institutions in country, we source information from them. Is this company registered and active? Does this company pay tax? Does this company employ people? How many people? Do they have employee numbers? Do they pay tax for employees? Does this company have investments to the tune that it claims? We get all that information and then on that basis we accept that the company meets the requirements of exceptional circumstances. We have been doing this.
As we said, this was not the only company where we have taken a decision on early naturalisation on the basis of exceptional circumstances. There have been cases of other business executives to whom we have granted early naturalisation -- individuals working for big multi-national companies. That was an exceptional circumstance, a senior executive who travels weekly, or fortnightly, in and out the country. To facilitate the movement of these executives, it is easier if they hold South African citizenship and have a South African ID and passport for them to be able to travel abroad and back and conduct their business in the country. Or it is the case of sportsmen or sportswomen, where the national teams need the skills of this person (ie. Springboks or Proteas). It is only Bafana Bafana that has not taken advantage of this opportunity, but the other nationals teams have appealed to us and we have offered them the opportunity for the good cause of the team. Or for humanitarian purposes on humanitarian grounds.
It would seem to me that a R25 billion investment in an economy of the size of the South African economy is a substantial investment to be considered as an exceptional circumstance. Subtract the R25 billion from our economy, and you create a substantial shortfall in foreign direct investment. It was a substantial add-on to the economy. This was money that creates jobs, industry, plant and leads to investment in technology and skills. We thought the exceptional investment was an exceptional circumstance. However, the law leaves the exceptional circumstances to the discretion of the Minister, not to be abused but to be considered by the Minister on every occasion when such requests are made. The requests are made very rarely, and it is not on every occasion when such requests are made that they are granted. The only problem when such exceptional circumstances are being considered is when you need to check whether proper due diligence has been done and whether the process has been followed to the detail and where a governance response needs to be done.
I don’t want to answer on their behalf what they considered to be urgent and what harm would have happened if early naturalisation was not granted. Harm is not a test provided in the law, when someone applies for early naturalisation. The law does not provide that the Minister must consider whether there would be harm if early naturalisation was not granted. It says, consider the application served before you. Let us generalise this. If someone applies for an ID, and the response is, what would be the harm if you don’t get your ID in seven days? If someone applies for a passport and we say there would be no harm if you get it next month and not in three days. Once the application was done, you respond to the application, not to a hypothetical harm. I needed to respond to the submission before me. It would have been improper for me not to exercise my discretion and deal with the application on the basis of harm, or lack of harm, that I was not aware of and had not been brought to my attention with the application when it was made. It provides that the Minister would have to apply discretion in that event and grant or decline, with reasons. We deal with these applications frequently. We reject most and we approve some. We were stringent in so doing because we consider various conditions, and I have mentioned a few.
Section 5(9)(a) is not prescriptive on who could apply for early naturalisation. There are instances where companies have submitted representation on behalf of persons wanting early naturalisation. I have been advised that directors of companies do submit on behalf of people in those companies. Part of the governance reform process that we are undertaking would have to probe whether we want to leave it open or want to be prescriptive, and perhaps add that in the regulations so that we don’t get abused and don’t expose our officials to abuse. This may not be the only case of this nature, or may not be the last. To close this loophole, we may need to include it in the governance reform so that we provide a way of handling applications for early naturalisation.
Ms Dambuza: For the record, you are saying you requested the officials to do their responsibility, which includes due diligence. Whoever came back to you reported and presented that they had done due diligence with SARS and the CPIC ,but the report we have, which was also confirmed by the former DG, says due diligence was not done, which means they gave you wrong information. I am leaving that to you. You got a report that due diligence had been done, but the report we have says no due diligence was done. When was the court ruling made that held that the Department must combine the application? The first application was received in 2013 -- was there any reason given why this application was not attended to? The applications arrived on separate occasions and then the Department decided, based on a court ruling. Was the court ruling in 2014 and the applications were combined in 2015, or in 2016? Could you confirm the Gupta family did not receive preferential treatment? If they did not, there was a court ruling in June 2018 about a family that renounced their citizenship, but even then, the Department did not approve their naturalization, and it ended up in court. I do not know if you were aware of that. So, would say that the Gupta family did not receive preferential treatment? I am not going to put pressure if you do not have the information to respond now. I would like the Minister to be given an opportunity to go and research and come and brief us, or write a report to the Committee.
Minister Gigaba: It is important to emphasise that the Minister is at the end of the process. The process would have gone through the Department, as I indicated in my presentation. In the normal course of applications for naturalisation, the Minister would not know who had applied for naturalisation and who had been granted naturalisation. The people you see taking an oath of allegiance and being naturalised -- I also see them for the first time. They would have been naturalised in the Department. Their naturalisation and the certificates were signed by the DG. The naturalisation applications that come to me are the ones being granted early naturalisation through exceptional circumstances, because that was what the law says must happen. Even in that case, the process comes to me when it has been concluded. The Minister does not have the capacity in their office to start reviewing the process or re-opening all together. By the time it comes to you, you read the submission, you check the supporting documents and take it on good faith that the Department has done its work and checked everything and satisfied itself that all supporting documentation was submitted.
At the point the submission was brought to me, there was no evidence that due diligence was not done, and even as I sit here, I would not say with confidence that due diligence was not done. It was a matter that I would need to probe in detail to confirm that it was not done. Arriving at such a conclusion would leave me in great fear of all other cases of early naturalisation, and even naturalisation done by the Department before. I would then have to ask myself, on what basis had we granted naturalisation to thousands of other people. You cannot take South African citizenship for granted, and we should not take lightly the allegation that due diligence hasn’t been done in this instance, because for me I would want to generalise it and say if it hasn’t been done in one instance, then it hasn’t been done in all other instances. What implication does that have for those who have been granted naturalisation previously? It is a question that leaves me in trepidation.
I would say the Gupta family was not granted preferential treatment. Their application was done and dealt with in the normal course of events and it took place over a period, but what I would not be aware of was this other family. I would like to investigate and invite Ms Dambuza to provide me with information on this family so that we can deal with the matter forthwith. First, you were informed of a positive outcome of your application, then forced to renounce the citizenship of the country of origin if it didn’t accept dual citizenship, then upon renunciation you immediately get granted your South African citizenship, so there was no vacuum and the person did not become stateless. We need to deal with that gap as a matter of urgency.
The Department would provide the details of the court ruling on combining applications. I don’t have it on hand, but the matter did not specifically deal with the combining of applications. It dealt with matters of the family, and that was where the Department derived its interpretation of how it must address family applications. It does not say specifically if people apply you must then combine their application. What the court cases have been about is the separation of families. People apply separately as individuals, but in the forms there is a provision for them to indicate kinship; who their relatives are and whether those relatives have South African citizenship. When you come across forms of people indicated in other forms, you then bring them together as a family application and treat them as a family. Again, it is part of the government reforms that have to be reviewed to establish how we deal with those matters going forward -- whether we need to pilot legislative amendments, or deal with it in regulations or just leave it as it is. We do need to pilot a governance reform to that effect.
Chairperson: I don’t want us to divert from the purpose of this inquiry and end up dealing with how we want to provide measures moving forward. In the letter from Mr Chawla, which we will refer to as the application for early naturalisation and all the applications before us, it is Mr Chawla who has given his information. The letter we talk about was a letter that does not talk about directors of companies. It talks about the grandmother and two sons for whom Mr Chawla was applying for early naturalisation. The application then went to an official in the Department who started to process it. If you feel that everything was done above board, I would take it like you say it. The Committee would make its own conclusion at some point when we deal with all the information that has been submitted before this Committee.
If you want to take the responsibility that due diligence was done as far as you know, then I don’t have a problem with you saying that, but my point is that these individuals were not directors of this company. Even if Mr Chawla was a director of the company here, he was applying as a family through various investments. I am not sure if you have seen the letter and engaged the contents of the letter. How then do you conclude that this was a family application for early naturalisation?
The Department has been promising to come back with the information on the court case. Till this day it has never come back, and now it is making the commitment again, but it won’t come back. We need to finalise the matter. Who gave Mr Chawla the mandate to make the application, because you do not even see Ajay Gupta’s signature. We need a full understanding of this whole process before we conclude. The application did not come directly to you, and you are saying even though it did not come to you, the Department started the process and you take the responsibility. I want us to break it down from that point. If you say everything was above board, you concur with what the Department had done. It means all that the officials were saying about not doing due diligence falls away and you take the responsibility for this application, hence you have confirmed citizenship for this family. Do we then proceed with the issuance of citizenship if one of them refused to renounce his original country of birth citizenship? Who was the official that received the application from Mr Chawla and then started to engage with him? What level and from which office was the official? What would we then say if Ajay Gupta comes back to us and says he did not apply for early naturalisation, but we have clubbed him and the wife to the application?
Minister Gigaba: Let me be clear, I am saying I received the submission from the Department.
(He read the background/introduction of the submission for early naturalisation)
The submission talks about Mr Gupta from the outset, and goes on and on. Evidently, this was what I was reading as the submission. When I talk about due diligence having being done, I am not saying I take responsibility for it having been done. I am saying I was assured that it was done. Based on the matters that arose in the September session, I then suggested a governance reform process to the Department so that we deal with these matters. In the submission, further reference is made to the investments, donations to schools, and number of employees employed by the company. These were brought to my attention at the time the submission sat before me. This was the information I had when a decision had to be made, but it has subsequently emerged that some of this information was inaccurate, and insufficient due diligence was done. This necessitated that I ask questions of the Department which are being raised at this inquiry. As I raised earlier, this issue was serious -- if there were lapses of this nature, it raises serious questions about all the others that we have taken before. It means we have to apply our minds very seriously on how we going to deal with closing the loopholes going forward. The integrity of the citizenship of our country is now in serious question. It’s a very grave question. I agree with the assessment that due diligence was not adequately addressed, and so we have to ask ourselves as a Department serious questions and scrutinise the matter not only in regard to this family, but all the others that were granted naturalisation and early naturalisation with regard to families and individuals.
Ms H Mkhaliphi (EFF): Since you have admitted that you have met the Guptas more than once, to be on the safe side because you said you were not sure how many times, before you became Minister of Home Affairs in 2014, is the reason why you granted them early naturalisation because you know them personally? Why I am asking this question is because the Gupta family matter was already in the public eye, it was already attracting attention from the public the way they do their business and make their millions in South Africa. When the Department declined their application, Mr Chawla then sent you an application letter, not on behalf of the family, but as Mr Chawla saying he was applying as family of the Guptas. I am sure that as the Minister, given the fact it was already in the public eye, you could have made sure before you granted them, given your powers, that you were going to check if everything was followed to the letter, because we had been identifying gaps in the policy implementation in the Department. So I am asking if you were not influenced by the fact that you had met them before you became the Minister?
You said in your document, on page 6, that the submission was supported by the meaningful contribution to society in terms of the investments, etc, but this was not the first time you were here and we were talking about the Guptas. Unfortunately, we were talking about this matter when we were in an inquiry. We have been trying to talk to you as the Committee to say there was a need for you to clarify to this Committee, that something happened during the granting of the early naturalisation, but we didn’t get your attention. I remember at one point we demanded to know from the Department if there were supporting documents where it is stated they have a social programme in North West. I remember specifically you even went to the extent of Googling for me when we were saying it can’t be that the shoes cost so much, and in that meeting you and the former DG said, no, this was authentic. We wanted to prove the point that the prices of the shoes were inflated. It was not even difficult to know that this could not be the price of the shoes, especially if you buy in bulk. My point is, this was not the first time we tried to alert you that they had submitted fake documents in order to qualify for early naturalisation. As a political head, you should have known better than to grant early naturalisation to the Gupta family, as a politician, as a member of the NEC in the ANC -- where even in those meetings of the ANC, the Guptas were discussed, you should have known better. What did the Minister fail to do to make sure that the granting of early naturalisation happened under the law in South Africa?
Minister Gigaba: In 2015, I don’t think anybody was aware of the matters that came out of the report of the Public Protector in 2016. The State of Capture report came out in 2016. What was in the public eye and where, I am not aware of that. Mr Chawla did not send the application letter to me, as I have said. The application letter was received by Mr Dombo in the Department, who then actioned it. Even if it was received by me, I would have immediately submitted it to the relevant officials from my office, who would have sent it to the Department. Letters that come to the Minister and queries for all sorts of things often don’t reach my attention. They get sent to relevant officials in the Department without my attention because it is known that the Minister is not involved in operations. The Minister would not address operational matters, so they are sent to the relevant officials.
On the allegation that we took this decision influenced by the fact that I already knew this family, as I have said, by the time the submission comes to the Minister, it is the last leg of a long process in the Department. The Minister would not even know who in the chain gets involved in the process and at what level until you receive a submission from the Director General. That’s when you read the submission and apply your mind to the submission before you, and interact with the submission. The only thing that was there around that time was the landing at Waterkloof, which had nothing to do with me and had no impact on the decision for early naturalisation. I consider the motivation for early naturalisation and conducting of due diligence as separate matters, because inasmuch as the motivation may have been sound, the conducting of due diligence may not have met the required standards. Looking at it with hindsight, it does appear there was a lapse in the process that requires a review, and that is why I have instructed the acting DG with the top managers to undertake a governance reform process.
During the time that was in question, I had been deployed to another Department, and when I returned I did give this matter my utmost attention. Unfortunately, the Minister would not be able to conduct due diligence him or herself. To check the shoe prices was something the Minister would not do. You take it on good faith that the Department has done it. When information comes to your attention that there has been a lapse in the process, you then deal with the information you now have at your disposal. You could argue that I was influenced by knowing the Guptas in approving the application for early naturalisation if the report to me was against the request, but not if it was in favour. It was clear the Department followed the process.
In December 2014, the adjudication committee considered the view. If the view from the outset was in favour of them, then in December 2014, when I was Minister of Home Affairs, the Department would have just overlooked the fact that the requirements were not met by two members of the family, and it would have approved the application for naturalisation. Nowhere does the Department say the Ministry interfered and gave a directive that we should overlook the process and just simply grant approval when the applicant applied for early naturalisation on the basis that the application for naturalisation had been rejected during the same period. If we wanted to favour the family, we would have overlooked the fact that Mr Gupta still had to renounce Indian citizenship and would have just simply granted him South African citizenship. We did not. We followed the law to the letter and offered him the opportunity to renounce his Indian citizenship. The renunciation of Indian citizenship was a process undertaken by the DG. The Minister’s involvement starts and ends with the approval of the submission, and the process reverts to the DG. Once the Minister writes the letter that your application has been approved, subject to you meeting the following conditions, the process is then again taken at an administrative level. It does not involve the Minister at that moment. The Minister’s involvement is very limited in this instance.
Ms Mkhaliphi: As much as I hear your explanation, you can’t run away from the fact that you were a political head, amd you have a political responsibility. I don’t want to think that you were saying in this inquiry once you have been told by the DG, you don’t even have an interest in making a follow up on such matters that would affect the society. I believe that you have a duty to protect the country and all its laws as the political head of the Department. During the inquiry, it also surfaced that your Chief of Staff, Mr Thami Msomi, once talked to one of the staff members and instructed the staff member to help Mr Chawla whenever he wanted anything. Understanding the role of the Chief of Staff, which was someone very close to you in terms of work relationship, this instruction given by your Chief of Staff to the members -- does it suggest that it was also coming indirectly from you?
Minister Gigaba: In the conduct of the Minister’s responsibility there is so much work that you do and so many decisions that you take, because I am the political head. I approve so many submissions, so if I were to follow up on each one of them, that would be micromanagement. Once the Minister seizes the strategic responsibility of executive management and starts micromanaging, the Department would immediately go on auto-pilot and would no longer be led, because the Minister was going to start chasing submissions and wanting to follow up to ensure that every single decision that was approved in the submissions was implemented. There are cabinet responsibilities, executive functions you need to undertake as the Minister and a whole lot of responsibilities that straddle among Civic Services, Immigration Services, Counter Corruption, HR, Government printing works and all other responsibilities, and even then there are still other specific responsibilities in each branch I am talking about. So, forgive me if I don’t have time for micromanagement, especially in cases where I have given approval and have further delegated powers to the DG, who had delegated powers to DDGs, and expect them not to stand with their noses against the wall but to exercise leadership in relation to the functions delegated to them. I expect them to exercise their responsibilities to assist me to lead the Department.
Mr Msomi, like anybody else in the Ministry, including myself, receives a lot of queries and requests. The contact numbers of the top managers of the Department, including the provincial mangers, have been made public since 2010 and you would find their numbers posted on the public posters in the office of the Department of Home Affairs. Many of our officials’ contact details are available to members of the public. So when people send their requests for assistance and queries, what they would do was to receive them and call the relevant people and say, here is a query I received, please assist. That is not a prescription for how such assistance should come. It is a request to look into the query submitted and provide guidance to resolve the query either affirmatively or not. I am not aware of the communication between Mr Msomi and the staff member, but the Department and Ministry interact all the time. The specific matter was not raised with me. So, I don’t know what the nature of that communication was. As I said in my submission, I asked Mr Msomi to explain how this matter was raised, arising from what was public knowledge, and he indicated to me as I have responded. To his knowledge and understanding, all he was saying was, here is a request submitted to me, please attend to it to the best of your ability according to what the laws and regulations that you deal with require, and it ends there – not to resolve it in favour of the people who were raising the matter.
Ms Mkhaliphi: What is the role of a Chief of Staff in your office?
Minister Gigaba: The Chief of Staff attends to the administrative functions of the Ministry, its organisation, the management of the programmes of the Minister and Deputy Minister, the coordination of the Minister’s office and Deputy Minister’s office, and ensures liaison between the Ministry and the Department, and ensures the Ministry accounts for the finances it receives in terms of its budget which gets allocated by the DG.
Ms Mkhaliphi: The MEC and HOD for education in North West came before the Committee and said what was submitted and presented to the Home Affairs Department was a fake document. Some of the schools do not exist at all. I understand what you were saying about micromanaging the Department, but since you are a political head you have a responsibility to make sure the corruption is dealt with in the country. So, what is your take now? My understanding is that all of us who are sitting here, starting with you, the deputy Minister, and all Members of Parliament, have a responsibility to make sure that whenever we implement, administratively or politically, it must not come to a point where the MEC tells a different story from what was submitted to the Department regarding the Guptas being helpful in those schools. The early naturalisation was granted because of the donations to the school. It has come to our attention that those schools do not exist. What is your take? As I have said, we have tried as this Committee to say that there is a problem with the process of granting early naturalisation. Now we have come to this conclusion, that what we had already suspected as Members of the Committee, has come to light; it is true that the Gupta helping schools was fabricated. I want to hear from you on the political side now.
Minister Gigaba: I agree completely, and I have instructed the Department as part of the governance review, to investigate that, not only in relation of what has happened but also how we should deal with these issues going forward. The audit function in the Department is involved as part of the investigation of how we deal with due diligence when people apply for naturalisation and early naturalisation, and will provide their recommendations, and we will take it on from there. So, I agree with you.
Ms Mkhaliphi: Please shed some light regarding the transfer of Mr Steyn. I am not sure if you are aware that Mr Steyn was transferred from New Delhi to Munich in 2016, if I am not mistaken. I know that at some point you are going to tell us that process does not even involve you as a Minister, but at the earlier submission in this inquiry, your name featured very well, to say that you had a role to play in terms of influencing a decision in the office of New Delhi for Mr Steyn to be transferred to Munich. We tried to get to the bottom of the issue in terms of the HR processes, but it was clear that you as a Minister had an influence in terms of transferring Mr Steyn. Please talk to us about that and your role?
Minister Gigaba: I did make extensive reference to this matter earlier. I visited India as part of my trip to BRICS countries. As the Members would remember, of the five BRICS countries, excluding South Africa, of course, in 2015 three still required visas to come to South Africa, with the exception of Brazil. Of those three, since then in 2017, we have signed a visa exemption agreement with Russia, which now leaves only India and China as visa requiring countries of the BRICS countries. About two weeks ago, we signed an extensive agreement with China to ease visa processes, and we are at advanced stages of negotiating a similar process with India.
When I visited India in 2015, I had occasion to meet with the High Commissioner, who indicated to me difficulties they were experiencing with the consular services. There were two types of challenges, one being of broken down relations between the High Commissioner and our consular services there, and secondly the backlog that had accumulated. He literally took me to the consular section, where there were piles and piles of forms which were lying around which had not been resolved on time. There were complaints about those applications that were not being attended to. I then said to the High Commissioner upon my return to South Africa I would convene our team and discuss the matter with them and try to find a solution. Upon my return, I convened the team that we had gone with, which included the DDG of Immigration Services, and said to them we needed to find a solution and perhaps we needed to consider moving the team that was in India somewhere else, and sending to India a team that was familiar with the environment in India who would hit the ground running and would be able to resolve the challenges, even if it was for a short period of time whilst we found a permanent solution.
It was then made known to me that even when the team that was in India was deployed, they had not been properly assessed in terms of post fitness, given that India was a huge country. It was a visa requiring country, and there were many applications that were received, and therefore you would need, naturally, to have people who could respond speedily to the volume and pressure that would be experienced in that environment. I then told them to find a solution and suggested that perhaps, if necessary on a temporary basis, why didn’t they send back to India the team that was there that knew the environment. Let them solve the problems, because they were familiar with the environment, and also train people who could go there on a permanent basis and be stationed there, because it’s understandable that you wouldn’t want people that had been deployed at a mission to stay longer than their period of deployment, which was usually four years. But we were facing a particular situation at the present stage and we needed to resolve the problem. The team then went and looked for those various names and upon discussion, eventually decided Mr Christians must be sent there. There were two other names, Ms Nyaziwa and Mr Mgabe, but eventually the other two were not deployed.
Mr Steyn was then moved to Munich, and the other person who was in New Delhi was retained there to be joined by Mr Christians. Mr Christians had to get another top security clearance, so he was deployed only in six months. Was there anything particularly peculiar about that? As I said in my earlier presentation, no. HR was my responsibility and I had on several occasions in Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Kenya, Shanghai and Lagos intervened when asked by the High Commissioners and ambassadors to do so. My predecessor intervened in Cuba when the ambassador there raised a concern about our deployee in Cuba, and had the deployee returned. We also had the deployees in Zimbabwe and Swaziland returned as well. In Kenya, Shanghai and Lagos, instead of returning them, we went there to address the problems experienced in those missions. It had always depended on the nature of the problem. The one in Swaziland, if I am not mistaken, was subsequently dismissed from the Department.
Chairperson: No, you see Mr Mavuso always does this thing of wanting to assist when he knows he is not supposed to do that. It is only the Minister who is speaking here. Even his legal advisor cannot even say a word. Mr Mavuso, please.
Minister Gigaba: The one in Swaziland is undergoing a disciplinary process. So, we intervene when there is a need for us to intervene, depending on the particular circumstances we are faced with, and the same applies at Civic Services. Even there, there were cases where we have intervened and had managers of our front offices either changed to different offices or re-trained in order to capacitate them to deal with the challenges we were facing.
Chairperson: Are you saying the responsibility for HR is your responsibility? Am I correct that this was what I heard you saying? Or were you saying it on the basis of the foreign offices? I am trying to understand what the role of the accounting officer of the Department is, because there were relevant people who deal with accounting for staff matters. Are you saying you intervened because it’s part of your HR responsibility?
Minister Gigaba: It is a power of the Minister which I have delegated to the DG. Up until recently, even the appointment of Chief Directors was a responsibility that lay with the Minister, but we recently decided to delegate it to the DG. However, when there are specific challenges, especially given that in foreign missions you are dealing with the integrity and image of the country, I do not turn a blind eye. In exercising my power to intervene, I do not do so abruptly. I always do so in liaison with the Department and seek the advice of the Department. The Department could come back and say, Minister, we suggest that instead of taking this route we rather take that route because we think that is the route that could work better in resolving the challenges that have been identified.
Chairperson: The ambassador then took you through the problem that there was a breakdown in the relationship between Mr Steyn and himself. What was the problem? Did he share with you what the problem was? Part of this Committee’s engagement is the need to invite the ambassador to come and talk to us because of the input we received from Mr McKay, who is the DDG responsible for the unit, and who does not know what the cause of the breakdown of the relationship was. No one has come forward with a document or information that says these were the problems that led to the breakdown of the relationship between Mr Steyn and the ambassador in that office. In your engagement with the ambassador, did he share with you what the problems were, besides the backlogs?
Minister Gigaba: The High Commissioner indicated the problem stemmed from the consular officers’ unwillingness to account to the High Commissioner. It usually becomes a problem in many missions where your consular officers struggle with how they relate with the ambassador or High Commission vis-a-vis Home Affairs in South Africa. It usually leads to a serious breakdown of relations over time, and that seemed to be the problem at the mission -- in addition, of course, to the stockpiles of applications that were not being processed.
Ms Mkhaliphi: Mr Steyn does know what the problem is till today. He has even said so under oath and on affidavit, that when he was approached by Ms Myaka, firstly it was a telephone call informing him he was going to be transferred, and was he prepared to move. He was further told by her to please keep quiet for now. Was that a practice in your department? There is no professionalism when a Chief Director would just say to a junior member, “Ssssh, just keep quiet about this.” You said during your submission as well, that Mr Chawla and Mr Christians had known each other as far back as 2011, if I am not mistaken, so the Gupta family who had captured the state, happened to come from India, particularly New Dehli. Now Mr Steyn was being transferred from New Delhi to Munich, and then Mr Christians, who you say knows Mr Chawla, who was facilitating everything regarding Guptas, moved back to New Delhi. In the middle of the transfer of Mr Steyn and taking back Mr Christians to New Delhi, there was the Minister at the centre of it. Mr McKay said as much, as he was with you in New Delhi, and he cannot recall or account for the meeting where the head of the mission was telling you about the relationship breakdown between himself and Mr Steyn. When Mr McKay came back to the country and engaged with the HR department on the conduct of Mr Steyn, they failed to provide him with the necessary documents to support complaints about the conduct of Mr Steyn. He further said it was in July, August and September he was expected to go and report to you. With all this information, don’t you think you were interfering with the transfer of Mr Steyn because you wanted Mr Christians to go and facilitate all the things the Guptas wanted?
Minister Gigaba: It is important not to try and conjure up false facts to prove a theory that you have already fabricated in your mind, because here are the facts.
We all got to know of Mr Chawla and Mr Christians knowing one another since 2011, during the proceedings in 2018. We only got to know of their acquaintance in September this year, not at any other time prior to this, only in September this year. Surely, in 2015, neither Ms Mkhaliphi nor I knew this. I never met Mr Christians at any other time until September this year, after he had been before this Committee. He himself admitted to the same when he appeared before this Committee. So that is a cold hard fact. Once I handed over the matter of the concerns of the High Commissioner to the Department, I left the process there for the Department to deal with, because I could not beyond that get myself involved in who and when does what. In my meeting with the Department, it was agreed that due processes would be followed. That’s why I allowed the Department to get back to me when they did so, without putting pressure on them. I also adhered to the advice they provided to me in the submission. All of the processes which I outlined in the submission and presented earlier today were processes and exchanges we had followed within the Department when I was not involved, because they then were to follow the HR and IMS (Integrity Management Service) process which pertained to matters of this nature. I am further advised it took about six months for Mr Christians to wait for his security clearance. If there was a hurry for Mr Christians to be in New Delhi, he would have been there immediately a decision was taken. If there was a rush, all of them would have been there without due process being followed. There are wrong doings by officials all the time in government, and I have heard of those being relayed to the Minister in those departments. The Department of Home Affairs is not immune to those and that is why we have counter corruption investigating, and we will implement consequence management where necessary to deal with any wrongdoing arising from whatever emanates from this process
Ms Mkhaliphi: Let’s say I want to agree with you on my conspiracy theory -- that it must not be created -- but I am moving from the angle that says correctly that you have not met Mr Christians in your entire life, but you go to New Delhi doing your own political work as a Minister, and you take along the DDG of the Department. Arriving in New Delhi, you are told a staff member is having a relationship breakdown with the head of department, so he needs to be moved. In 2018, the very same staff member is saying he is hearing of the relationship breakdown for the very first time. I take it that the Minister does not deal with individual HR matters, but the DDG was with you and you told the DDG the staff member must be transferred because you wanted the work of the Department to continue here in this mission. The DDG was saying he engaged the HR about taking a disciplinary inquiry regarding the staff member that had been reported to have a bad relationship with the head of mission. The DDG was under pressure, not knowing what to report to the Minister after six months. Conspiracy theory aside, surely as the political head of the Department, as a person who had a background of leading people, you would have had an interest to make sure the staff member was not victimised? You would need a report from the DG on the staff member. It was not going to be an easy process, where the staff member says, after two years, that it was news to him that he was transferred because of his conduct.
Surely, there was no conspiracy theory there. I am saying to you, as you put it, you had not met Mr Christians, but you have told us that Mr Christians and Mr Chawla had met each other as far back as 2011 -- the very same Mr Christians who does not have top security clearance. It was in black and white in one of the letters from a person who was coordinating the move, telling HR that Mr Christians did not have security clearance, but it would be preferred while he was there in New Delhi. We need clarity. It means the Guptas, through Mr Chawla, who had known Mr Christians since 2011, influenced you because of the relationship you have with them, to bring back Mr Christians because we could work better with him. Then you did just that and transferred Mr Steyn to Munich without making sure the complaints were sustained or were proven otherwise. The Minister had clarified there was no conspiracy theory, only a logic of events.
Minister Gigaba: The Member’s chain of events further proves the conspiracy theory because the logic of events according to the Member is irrational. To be transferred to Munich is not punishment. In actual fact, by all standards, Munich is a lucrative deployment. In Munich, there are fewer visa applications than New Delhi, so that can’t be considered as victimisation. Mr Christians waited six months for his security clearance to be sorted out. There was no rush to fly him out to New Delhi, regardless of the fact that his security clearance was not done. There was no pressure applied for him to go, regardless of the process being followed.
I think the question would be the tactical choice made, of not undertaking a long drawn out process. At times, in these environments, a break down in relations was not necessarily a matter of disobedience and insubordination, but a matter of personality clashes. When you assess, you conclude that instead of subjecting this matter to a disciplinary process, let’s rather separate the individuals concerned and rather solve the matter that way. So you don’t punish the one person by taking them to what they would consider as punitive deployment, but you take them to a deployment they would still be comfortable and happy with, without subjecting them to a disciplinary process. That is a tactical response to a challenge of this nature at times, compared to the problems in Cuba, Zimbabwe and Swaziland. There was no pressure applied to the Department.
I am not aware of the content of the engagement of the DDG Immigration Services and HR. This was not the only issue, like I said, that I dealt with and I never made a follow up. When officials are aggrieved, they file the grievance, which at some point lands with me. From time to time, when High Commissioners and ambassadors complain to me, I am obliged to act.
Chairperson: Two years down the line, Mr Steyn gets to know that there was a breakdown of the relationship between him and the ambassador. Two years down the line, no one in the Department ever spoke to Mr Steyn and alert him of his removal. According to Mr Steyn’s testimony here, he was excited in fact to leave New Delhi to go to Munich. We now get to know that Mr Christians submitted his CV to the Guptas. He was frustrated that Mr McKay had put him in a corner here in Cape Town, and he could not take it anymore. He submitted his CV to the Guptas that he wanted to go back to India. Mr Chawla was aware, and then communicated information to Mr Christians that it seemed like there was a blockage here -- please ignite your powers. There was a relationship that you may not know, that in fact Mr Christians had this relationship with Mr Chawla three years back, and he was deployed there two times before. You and I don’t know of this relationship to an extent that Mr Christians even facilitated business deals. These were new things that were now there. The poor Mr Steyn was sitting with a problem that there was a breakdown of a relationship that he did not know about. He was happy to move to Munich with his family, he was excited, but deep down the poor man did not know in fact that he was a problem – he had been moved because he was a problem. Minister, you would not have known there was a relationship between Mr Christians and the ambassador, because clearly Mr Chawla had been everywhere, even to the lowest level. There have been facts put before this committee that there was some kind of relationship between Mr Chawla and junior officials. We came to know about that and we feel sorry and shame today that in front of Mr Steyn we told him two years down the line there were problems about him which no one had ever told him.
HR talked to the policy that gets ignited when you deal with matters of disciplinary conduct between the ambassadors and those who are first secretaries. Once they are there, they become the responsibility of the ambassadors, so that the Department’s role becomes limited to day-to-day operational matters there. They are accountable to the ambassador when they are there. This was why Mr McKay tried so much to get the ambassador to give him the reasons for the breakdown of the relationship, and that information did not come to Mr McKay, who was the DDG responsible for that branch. By the time Mr McKay went and met with HR, he did not have that information -- it was still hearsay that the Minister said there was a breakdown. He was informed of this by the ambassador, which was why the Committee wanted the ambassador to come here and explain himself. He could have misled the Minister just to please Mr Chawla, and no one in the Department took it upon themselves to engage Mr Steyn about the problem. This is what was bad about this whole thing.
We all know there is an allegation that a number of people deployed or appointed to government had to submit their CVs to the Guptas for them to be deployed. In this Committee, under this inquiry, maybe we could try to bring scenarios that Mr Christians, having submitted his CV to the Guptas, necessitated him going back to New Delhi without you knowing in fact, because how these things were done, to my understanding, was at a level you would not even believe. That was why the application for naturalisation, when it came in, didn’t even come to you -- it went to another level. The Committee would have to find time to engage with the person who received the application. I am giving an example of how low level officials were targeted to do certain things without you, as the executive, knowing. I am not saying you did not know, but that is the understanding of how this whole thing was run. Mr Christians went there and then started to perform things outside his ambit of work. The DG wrote to him to explain the media reports. He misled the DG and it’s only when he came to this Committee that he confirmed what he had done. He is a liar, in fact, without making a judgment now. We would make a conclusion at some point in this Committee, but he is a liar. He lied to the DG and said there was nothing, it was not true what you read there. In this Committee under oath, he then started to confess that in fact he knew these things, and this was what had happened -- to the extent that he even had coffee with Rajesh Gupta and a businessman who wanted to sell a mining company to Arjay Gupta. They had tea in a restaurant. We asked him who paid for the tea and he said he paid for it. When we probed him further, he said, no, Rajesh paid for the tea. So you could see that you were not dealing with a person who is honest and disciplined when it comes to an officer of the state.
And we were dealing with Mr Steyn, who had served this Department for 30 years of his life. He was on his way to retirement. There was nothing this poor man called Mr Steyn had done. It was only on the basis of the ambassador, who did not even substantiate the allegations in writing, and innocently the Minister, in the name of service delivery, who came in to want to assist the process -- and went as far as deploying other people. The DDG responsible for that did not know. Mr Kobese, in his input under oath, said he queried the deployment of Mr Steyn to Munich. HR even went to an extent that said he had failed because if those issues were there, he would have raised them with HR because those were HR related matters. The Minister then ended up finding himself in a situation where there were problems there, but not one was disclosing openly and fairly exactly what the problems were.
We have an affidavit that was submitted by Sundaram, and there was a book that he wrote about the operations of Mr Chawla and the Department of Home Affairs. The affidavit talks mostly of irregular applications that Mr Chawla was pushing, and Mr Steyn was refusing to process such applications. He said he couldn’t -- he sticks by the law. Then Mr Christians went in there and everything was fine, the office was operating and there were no complaints anymore. Everybody was happy, including the ambassador. The ambassador did not complain anymore. This was not our conclusion, but we would make our conclusion on this matter. These were things that happened without you knowing, because you got to know about these things now, as far as I hear you as you engage with the Committee here. The problems were there. You talk the law and policies, you talk all of these things, but none of these things were followed.
Ms Mkhaliphi was trying to probe and at the same time bring to fore the new issues that we have now come to learn about, that there were problems there. That was why the point was raised: Did you know Mr Chawla? Did you meet with him before? Could you explain your relationship with the Guptas? It is because of all that we have come to know. It was on this basis that these questions were now raised and we wanted the response from the level of yourself to see if there was any influence from your side, or if there was any relationship between yourself and Mr Chawla around the deployment of Mr Christians to the New Delhi offices. I was trying to wrap up the questions that were raised by Ms Mkhaliphi generally. That was the point she was putting across to you. These new developments that were there were what this Committee would have to focus on, but we will deal with that as we make our recommendations. There are new developments dealing with people that are just not honest, and they would make you run with them. They like to clap their hands and say, Minister, Minister, they tried to do that for me, and I said don’t clap your hands for me, I would not appreciate such an approach. They do that and talk so softly -- all of them talk very softly, I don’t want to name them now, but deep down most of them were putting this Department into disrepute. Those are my comments informed by the current information at my disposal, based on the submissions.
Ms Mkhaliphi: The Minister is correct in saying that Munich and New Delhi are two different countries. That was why Mr Steyn told us that he did not question his transfer, because he was happy he was moved from New Delhi to Munich. I want to say to you there were no Guptas in Munich. The Guptas were in New Delhi, so the reason why we want to get to the bottom of this transfer of Mr Steyn is because there were no Guptas in Munich who wanted to capture the state of South Africa -- they were there in New Delhi. Unfortunately, that country was not at the same standard as Munich, so that was why Mr Steyn did not question his transfer. I want to agree with you on the HR processes, that you were resolving a problem and you didn’t want this problem to boil down in such a way that it would become unresolved. Look at it from the other side. This was a person who had been working for more than 30 years in the Department and now this person was accused and moved to a new mission. There were no corrective measures as an employee of the Department. It did not help to move Mr Steyn without correcting him. It seems as if the reasons told to the Committee were not true. Even the DDG alluded to what happened after Mr Christians took over the office in New Delh, because we were told Mr Steyn, after 30 years, was incapacitated from performing his job in New Delhi. So now, after he was moved, was there any improvement since Mr Christians took over in New Delhi? No one has told the Department. No one has told us.
Minister Gigaba: It is totally unacceptable that Mr Steyn’s managers didn’t inform him of the facts and discuss the matter and seek his own side of the story. Naturally, when I brought the matter to their attention, I was relating only one side of the story. That was why it was important for the process to listen to both sides. I became aware of the CVs only now, and it is shocking. I was not aware of Mr McKay’s pain of getting the information from the High Commissioner. I would have to seek that information. We have since sent the second audi letter to the two officials. I don’t know if it has been written -- if it hasn’t, I hope it will be soon so they can explain themselves in relation to the letters that they wrote. In the submission in the files before the Committee, the reasons are stated for the redeployment, from paragraph 2, 3, 4 and 5. I wish to point Members to those paragraphs which refer to proper training, to consider the match between the profile of the officials and the mission they were placed in, as well as the experience in the field, area of focus and performance in training, and the fact that officials could not be sent to practical training due to budget constraints. The placement of the officials was done at the discretion of the Minister in 2013. During that time, the person-to-post matching was not sufficiently done. All of those are in the submission, but I think with hindsight again, the managers of Mr Steyn should have had a discussion to him to clarify the problems and relay the facts to him directly. I think it is unacceptable that this did not happen, because it would have helped him to improve his own capacity and also as an official in the new area of deployment.
Chairperson: The information we received from HR was that these submissions, signed by the officials, were prepared by Mr Hlogwani, who Mr McKay requested to prepare, based on his capacity. Number five of the submission talks of the breakdown of the relationship, which was not substantiated anywhere. It came as hearsay between Mr McKay and HR as they prepared the submission. There were no facts -- it was hearsay. When the engagement happened, a decision had already been taken. This was what we were told when Mr McKay met with HR -- a decision had already been taken, and he just wanted to see compliance with the law to implement the decision. This was what we received under oath, so it is important that such information should be brought forward as we engage with you so you know during the presentation by HR, together with Mr McKay, this was what they said. At the end of the day, that submission was made by Mr McKay and the officials, so you must take into account the lack of information from that point of view. For Mr Christians, we only know that there was a backlog and the backlog was not new -- it had been there before. We now know capacity in the immigration unit was a serious matter. There were no facts that were put forward on the breakdown of the relationship. There was no one other than yourself who had shared with Mr McKay, who did not even relay this information. We cannot insist on facts that were not there regarding Mr Steyn. The point is, he accepted his deployment, he was happy and celebrated, because it was a relief for him to be moved from the conditions he was operating in. Mr Steyn did not do anything bad. The person we need to focus on is Mr Christians, who we now know went there for other reasons. He himself confirmed this. I am not making up my own story and conclusion -- Mr Christians himself confirmed what he was doing in New Delhi. He confirmed the work he was doing outside the tasks given to him by the Department. After Mr Christians came, the backlogs just disappeared. You need to note this seriously, because it does not make sense. There was not a single problem anymore; things were smooth, as if there had never been problems. We must take this into account as we make conclusions and final comments. You must be aware of the new information that is before the Committee.
Mr A Figlan (DA): The information that was in the media on 6 March 2018, when you said Atul and Ajay Gupta were not South African citizens -- on 8 March you retracted the statement, and Atul’s passport was distributed in social media. Was that the reason you withdrew the statement, or were you given wrong information?
Minister Gigaba: As I indicated on the same day, it had been an oversight on my part because we had been talking interchangeably about the three brothers, and in my response, I mistakenly included Atul when I was talking about Mr Ajay Gupta. The fact of the matter is, I was referring to Mr Ajay Gupta not as a South African citizen, because Mr Atul Gupta and Mr Rajesh Gupta had been naturalised in the previous year. There would have been no benefit in lying about Mr Atul Gupta.
Mr Figlan: When did you come to know the Guptas? Was it the time you were Minister of Public Enterprises, or when you became Minister of Home Affairs?
Minister Gigaba: Before then. Before I was even Minister of Public Enterprises.
Mr Figlan: So, you were friends with the Guptas?
Minister Gigaba: I have answered this question before. Is there any useful purpose in starting all over again?
Mr Figlan: Maybe I am sleeping or am awake, I don’t know. I just asked if they were your friends, yes or no.
Minister Gigaba: I have answered the question before. What useful purpose does it serve to answer the same question all over again?
Mr Figlan: I am not going to dialogue with you. I am just asking the question, maybe I was outside.
Minister Gigaba: I am on record. I have answered the question. I shall not answer it again. I am on record.
Minister Gigaba: There was a meeting with DLS that was at their request, which was in my office. After I listened to them, I indicated we had no business and therefore it was the last time we met with them.
Mr Figlan: Who was the owner of that company?
Minster Gigaba: I didn’t ask them. They presented their business proposition. I indicated to them that we had no need for their proposition, and even if we did, if we went on tender they would not make their proposal to me because as a Minister I don’t get involved in business proposals -- that was a process that was taken by administration in the Department. Therefore, it was a fruitless exercise to engage with me.
Ms Dambuza: I want to get a picture of what really happened here. First, you had this report from the High Commissioner and I don’t know whether you were aware that the backlog was there prior to the deployment of Mr Steyn. Were you aware even then there were interventions that were taking place in a manner where additional staff were deployed to assist? Even now, when Mr Steyn had gone, the backlog remained, and to intervene your Department decided to deploy two additional staff to assist. It would have been different if the two additional staff had been deployed while Mr Steyn was there -- then there would not have been a problem. The Minister was misguided right through, and it pains me. I am going to substantiate my comment. The Minister is innocently reading what is in front of him, right in front of us. He is reading the information to us innocently because he has been instructed to read it. What happened, according to your information, from the meeting with the DDG -- yet the DDG still went to HR to ask them to justify why Mr Steyn should be leaving. He wanted assistance to check the legislation, but in fact it was to get advice on how he should process the transfer. You took a decision as a Minister, and no one would argue with the Minister if the Minister had taken a decision. The Minister was told to read this, yet this document was prepared by HR for the unit. I don’t even think they read this document because if you read this document, it was criminal what was going on here. The point I want to make is that I am pained by what the Minister is doing, and that is my observation. He reads with confidence. They misled him right in front of us.
Minister Gigaba: It was being brought to my attention now because obviously afterwards I did not have sufficient time to obtain a report to find out what the status in New Delhi was, but it has been brought to my attention that no assistance was provided in 2015 to the New Delhi office. Relief staff were sent in 2017, and none have been sent now. This is the information which was brought to me by Mr McKay. It does seem the problem was in New Delhi.
Chairperson: Don’t forget it is you who is under oath, not the people who were giving you this information.
Minister Gigaba: That is why, when I refer to information which has been brought to me, I indicate where it comes from because this is information that would have been brought to me, not necessarily from my knowledge. It does seem to me the situation in New Delhi requires on-going monitoring and scrutiny, given the challenges that we are facing of high volumes and the challenges the Committee has been focusing on. I am going to dedicate attention to it to ensure that we have sufficient capacity to deal with that situation and the challenges which have been brought to our attention. There is absolutely no way that we are going to leave that situation as it is, given the information which has come to light. We seriously have to pay attention to it. I think the negotiation around the easing of visa requirements with India will assist us a great deal moving forward, but even before we get to that stage we have to deal with the situation that we are presented with at the present stage.
We have to go back to the matter of the redeployment of Mr Steyn in 2015. We will have to look back into it and find a way to deal with it and find closure. Unfortunately, Mr Hlongwane was late in giving us his side of the story. Back then, I dealt with the information that was presented to me by the High Commissioner and asked the Department to assist us in intervening, and to provide a solution according to the information that had been presented to me. I could not deal with information I did not have. I dealt with what was before me. As Members indicated and were aware, new information has come to light requiring that we conduct a sort of post mortem of this situation, and we shall do so. It is not just about dealing with what has happened post facto, but it is also about ensuring that we restore the integrity of our operation in what is a high volume country, a BRICS partner and a strategic partner to South Africa.
Chairperson: Are you aware there had been a stand-off between Mr McKay and Mr Kobese in regard to the deployment of Mr Mgabe and Mr Christians? I think you have not been made aware, but if you have followed the hearing today, you would pick up that this whole deployment became a football between Mr McKay and Mr Kobese. Mr Kobese was pushing for Mr Mgabe to be appointed, and Mr McKay was pushing for Mr Christians. At the end of the day, Mr McKay won on the basis that this was supported by your name. These are things you may not be aware of. I am not sure if you are aware. If you are aware of the matter of Mr Mgabe, you may want to share with this Committee and tell us what you know about the stand-off. It was confirmed that if Mr Hlongwane were alive, he would have shared with you such information. We got this information from HR, who helped to navigate the deployment.
Minister Gigaba: I am not aware of a stand-off. I will follow it up and deal with it accordingly. I will pay attention to the New Delhi situation, and will do so as a matter of urgency.
Ms T Kenye (ANC): On the matter of the high volume in New Dehli, was there any remedial action, because to my understanding removing Mr Steyn was not a remedial action, because it was a recurring decimal? If you say 3 000 people can be served by only two officials, can’t you make a strategy therefore, even if you consider the performance management system, to look how the performance was going? To my understanding, there was a need for additional permanent staff and not just people who were going there to assist and then come back. What remedial action are you taking to see that the problem does not recur? Even if Mr Christian was there for the time being, that would be a recurring decimal.
Minister Gigaba: We are constrained at the present moment by the availability of resources to increase staff, because it is not only India that needs additional staff. We need additional staff in a number of areas. In fact, we have been cutting down on foreign deployment in foreign missions because of a reduction in our budget. We are facing serious budget constraints. It would seem that we will have to make do with the capacity that we have until such a time, God-willing, the resources in government increase and we are be able to increase the staff we deploy, or else we will reach a stage where we can do away with visa requirements. It is going to be a long time because, with regard to countries like India and China, those countries together with us are still of the view that visas are still a requirement. If they are still a requirement, it means we need to try and ensure we have sufficient staff capacity. It is easier on their part, because South Africa is a country of only 57 million people, but as soon as we begin introducing the eVisas next year, it should alleviate the problems and enable us to digitise visa applications and adjudication and then we will have better management of that situation.
Mr Hoosen: One of the benefits of this whole exercise for all of us has been that we have learnt some tough lessons through the process, and I am encouraged by the comment you made earlier when you advised us you instructed the Department to undertake a governance reform process. Those are positive steps to try and correct what you see has gone wrong. I accept that there are some bits of information that you only became aware of after this inquiry had started. I am sure that even you would have learnt some lessons, and all of us have learnt some lessons through this process. One of those lessons I want your review on. Ultimately you put your signature on the document to grant the family naturalisation, and given all that has happened, if you had the opportunity again now that you know what has happened and it is known that you had a relationship with the family over ten years, would you do it again if you had the opportunity under the current circumstances?
Minister Gigaba: You add a line there in your question which throws a spanner about a relationship, and casts an aspersion, otherwise ordinarily the question is a fair question. Given what we know now, obviously we would ask different and more difficult questions and we would say to the Department, go back and do more work because we cannot take a prejudicial decision. You need, as the Department, to ask very difficult questions about the application process. The mere fact that three submitted an application for early naturalisation, but the submission talks about five people and takes it for granted that there are five people who applied for early naturalisation, about the fact that what we regard as exceptional circumstances, needs more rigorous due diligence to be done. What were stated as philanthropic, investment and employment reasons needed to be more rigorously interrogated so that you can arrive at a proper decision. I think, therefore, we would have sent the submission back with more questions, including about how it came to be. I think the process of the governance reform is going to assist us to ensure that moving on, we avoid the pitfalls that have led us to where we are right now. It is going to be a difficult process, and what the Department will have to try and achieve is a rigorous process, yet one which does not result in red tape and delays in people’s applications. That was going to be the test of this whole process, and it means that we will need to focus not only on the government process as a bureaucratic mechanism, but also on the use of technology solutions to assist in the process to ensure smooth and quick decision making.
Mr Hoosen: The reason why I asked you the question was not to cast an aspersion -- I am repeating what you were saying about the 10 year relationship. I appreciate your honesty and openness about your weaknesses. To some degree, you have exposed yourself to risk by signing this thing off, given all that is going on in the Department. Knowing quite well you were signing off an application for a family that you had a relationship with for a 10 year period -- that on its own was exposing yourself to risk. Am I being unfair towards you, or is that a fair question?
Minister Gigaba: No, it is an unfair question because knowing somebody was never a test of whether the application should be approved or not. If that was a test, then there were thousands of people in South Africa who would not qualify for IDs, passports, visas and all sorts of other documents because they know the Minister and on the basis of that, they should be prejudiced. It was not a test -- it was not written in the law. The law stipulates very clearly that if you meet certain requirements -- and those requirements exclude knowing the Minister, and some of those people have a much closer relationship: my children, my wife, my family, my relatives. What should happen to them, do they have less rights to qualify for South African documents because they are related to me? That is why in the law it is not a test. It is not a means test.
Mr Hoosen: With all due respect, Minister, it was not the same situation because you refer to your wife, your children, the people that you know, and none of them applied for early naturalisation.
Minister Gigaba: But on what grounds?
Mr Hoosen: I haven’t finished my question. None of them applied for early naturalisation and none of the people that you talk about that you know, invited you for Diwali to their homes or to their weddings. This family was different. You had a relationship spanning ten years and at some point, before you put your signature on that document, surely you would have thought about that and said, this might be risky and perhaps I should not be considering this, because you had known the family and had long by then had a relationship. It’s not just knowing them -- it was beyond that, as you explained. The question I am putting to you, if you had an opportunity to do it again, to have to sign on that paper, had you not signed, they would not have received early naturalisation. It was your decision ultimately, and notwithstanding that the Department prepared the documents, the law says you granted it. By signing that document, you granted it. If you had chosen not to, considering that you had a relationship with this family, they would not have received citizenship.
Minister Gigaba: You raise the point on relationships, which is ambiguous and vague. You don’t explain it and you put it as a means test. It is not there in the law. The law does not say that you should approve a person’s application only on the basis that you do not know them and have never met them. It is not there in the law. The law doesn’t put that as a means test. You are creating your own law which doesn’t exist. When this Portfolio Committee drafted this law, and approved it, it didn’t consider the fact that when somebody applies for a document of one form or the other, including naturalisation or early naturalisation, you may have met them before or not met them before. That is why the Minister doesn’t sit in on the process of adjudication and checking the documentation of the people and whether they qualify in terms of meeting the requirements of the application. It says that the process must be run in a particular way. It stipulates what requirements they need to meet. It doesn’t put the requirement that you are now introducing so late in the day. Surely, it would be prejudicial to anybody if the Committee were to consider what you were saying as one of the requirements for anybody to be considered as a citizen of any country, that they should know or have met or even in the most vague sense, had a relationship with the Minister or anybody else in authority for that matter. My attendance at these events was not consistent, and therefore cannot be associated with a ten-year relationship. The Department recommended this without my interference, so your question is not justified. It doesn’t exist in the law. You are formulating law as you are sitting there and so you are being unfair to me. You are being unfair to anybody else who could in future apply for South African citizenship, regardless of who may be the Minister, because you are basically saying for you to even make a decision to apply for naturalisation or early naturalisation, if you have met the Minister, just don’t think about it.
Mr Hoosen: Let me just explain that I am sorry that I could not clarify the relationship between yourself and the Gupta family, because you made it difficult for me to do so. I tried my very best to try and ascertain what the nature of your relationship was from the beginning, and you had been aggressive about it and I couldn’t get the information from you. I used the word relationship very loosely, so you could use it and interrupt it as you so wish. I want to tell you that you are incorrect and I am not making up laws as I go along. The law is there actually, and it is the Executive Ethics Act, where it says very clearly that you should not expose yourself to any situation that brings risk to you in a manner that there is a conflict between yourself and any decision you are taking. It is there in the Executive Ethics Act. So, I am not making up the law as I go along. You have a responsibility to make sure that you don’t expose yourself to risk in a conflict situation, and I am afraid in this particular instance that is exactly what you have done, because you had a relationship with this family over ten years and you presided over their application for citizenship.
Minister Gigaba: You are wrong.
Chairperson: Let us not do this. Let us not make a finding now. We still have an opportunity as the Committee to evaluate all this information. We have engaged with the Minister and all the other officials. In that regard, we are going to make our own determination of what the view of the Committee is. If we start to do it now, it makes it a problem for us to come to some conclusion.
Mr Hoosen: I am putting it to the Minister as I see it, and hopefully to get his response on it.
Chairperson: I thought it important, because I don’t want to find myself in any conflict and seem to be taking sides. It is politics we are dealing with at the same time. We have tried to be fair in the process to give each one an opportunity to raise their questions, points, clarities and all of that. I think for the first time you have seen me being very quiet. When dealing with officials, I am out there, I am in the forefront. Here I am very sensitive of the fact that I am chairing this Committee, and at the moment we are dealing with the level of the Minister and I allow everybody to speak their minds, but let’s not forget that we still have another opportunity as a Committee to sit on our own to evaluate all this information that we have received. We will make a conclusion and the conclusion we are going to make does not end here in the Committee. Parliament is expecting to get the report of the work that we are doing here and that report will have recommendations. Recommendations that are going to come out of that report may be in many forms, and one of those forms is to deal with those who have lied to Parliament during their submissions under oath. We are going to evaluate all this information. I have asked legal to evaluate the first submissions that were made in the first process of the engagement, and now. We have to evaluate this information because we cannot do any inquiry and not check the facts that are put before the Committee and the truth that comes out of this engagement. I do not want to come up with that now, but I am saying towards the end of this inquiry we will do that exercise as a Committee alone, to evaluate such information.
Mr Hoosen: I do agree with you when we get to that point, and if I raise that issue at that point -- in the absence of a response from the Minister -- the Committee is not going to be able to have the benefit of his response for us to make a conclusion. I made an allegation or a suggestion, and I really want the Minister to respond to it.
Chairperson: Without talking for him, but chairing, I think the point of the relationship you have clarified -- his role and his understanding of the relationship between himself and the Guptas, that it was at a professional level. I don’t want to repeat it now, but in that regard he did explain the relationship. It is up to us now if we want to probe it further, but I think you have to know that already he has confirmed his relationship and how he understands his relationship with the Guptas.
Mr Hoosen: My question is not related to the relationship. I have got beyond that. My question is related to, given there was a relationship, however you want to describe it, did he not see it as a conflict of interest? That is the question I want him to answer.
Minister Gigaba: I have responded to this. There was no conflict of interest. There are many people that I know and I adjudicate over many issues related to those people. The law, including the Executive Ethics law, does not include the knowing of people. The fact that you know someone doesn’t mean that you have a close relationship amounting to a conflict of interest. That is why it was not put as a test in the law as one of the requirements for you to make a decision. That is why the Minister doesn’t get involved in the operation of testing the application right throughout the process until a decision is made.
Mr Hoosen: You have been very open about some of the weaknesses in the system, and the things that you are going to do to try and help to fix them. From what I understand, that was to some degree an acceptance that the manner in which this entire saga was handled was not entirely 100% in line with our rules, regulations and laws. That was the interpretation I got from you. To give you one example, the due diligence wasn’t conducted, there was information that was brought to the Department that was incorrect or inaccurate as you put it, and others I would not go into. The question I want to put to you now, given that it was not done properly and that there was a provision in the law that you have the power to revoke the citizenship of the Gupta members who were granted citizenship, would you be willing to consider doing that?
Minister Gigaba: We will follow due process to make that assessment.
Mr Hoosen: I am referring to you.
Minster Gigaba: I will follow due process to make that assessment.
Mr Hoosen: I take it you are saying yes.
Minister Gigaba: Yes, I would follow due process.
Mr Gumede: Is there an inference or otherwise that the Minister received any material benefit, either financial or otherwise, from a relationship with the Guptas that could then be conceived as a conflict of interest?
Chairperson: To whom? The Minister or Mr Hoosen?
Mr Gumede: I want it to be clarified, because there have been allegations.
Chairperson: To be clarified by the Minister, or by Mr Hoosen?
Mr Gumede: Mr Hoosen.
Mr Hoosen: I didn’t hear the question, but I would be happy to answer any question.
Chairperson: No, we will do our own evaluation there. Please don’t start politics.
We have come to the end of this engagement. Let’s take this opportunity to appreciate the robust engagement we have had with the Minister on what we were mandated by Parliament to deal with, which was the naturalisation of the Gupta family and associates. This matter that is before the Committee Members -- all of us agree we are not over with this inquiry, so I don’t want to comment on the inputs made by the Minister. We are still waiting for further engagements with the former accounting officer of the Department and Mr Chawla around the process and due diligence we have identified. There seems to be agreement from most of them that proper due diligence has not been done. We still have to hear from Mr Apleni -- we need to afford him an opportunity to finalise his part in the inquiry. This is informed by the fact the submission for early naturalisation was done by officials. It did not go directly to the Minister so it is important we understand the process in the administration. Starting with Mr Dombo -- we spoke about Mr Dombo many times during these meetings and we have now come to know that Mr Dombo was the person who received these applications. There are a number of outstanding queries in regard to how the first application was made and lodged. We have asked the Department to talk to us about that. In the file that was presented, you see that it was lodged in Pretoria, but it does not say where, it does not say anything. Again, there is other public information that is going to come, that in fact some of these applications were signed at Sahara Computers, and that is why Mr Apleni would have to be here so he can deal with how these applications were processed.
Mr Chawla’s matter still stands. His application letter to the Minister is prime, and we have to get to the bottom of it. He is not able to come now because of the reasons we have given -- that he wants business class tickets, and all the other things he requested. On that note, Parliament cannot afford to fly him down to Cape Town. He is coming at the end of November. We will then have the Portfolio Committee meeting that will take place in the first week of December, to close off on the two people that we have identified. There are still gaps that need to be closed under immigration, and we have requested Mr McKay – who will communicate via you or the Director General -- to raise the matters we will want to get confirmation on. There are certain areas that have not been responded to clearly, so we need to get Mr Apleni, Mr Chawla and Mr McKay to come. We still want to ask the Department to get us the formal response on Mr Chawla having applied for an ID with sunglasses on.
Our support team has started to draft a second report on the hearings. We will then close that with a third draft that will come when we meet Mr Chawla, Mr Apleni and Mr McKay to close the inquiry. We will then have the exercise of finalising the report. All the inputs we are receiving, we are packaging them. We will consolidate all the drafts and make a final report, which will include the recommendations and suggestions we want to make to the Department, especially on the gaps and legislation that needs to be amended. The report will then be tabled in Parliament, and once it is tabled in Parliament with recommendations, and if they are adopted they will have to be implemented.
On that note, I know it is the early hours of the morning and we are all tired, but you have done very well, Minister -- this is one of the marathons that you have run. Thank you very much for your time. It was necessary that we went through this exercise with you. You have been fair, open, and transparent.
The meeting was adjourned.