Gupta Naturalisation Parliamentary Inquiry day 1; with the Deputy Minister
12 September 2018
Chairperson: Mr H Chauke (ANC)
On the first day of the second phase of the Gupta naturalisation inquiry the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs heard from the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA), because they are the relevant people to engage on the status and the findings of the leaked emails and the North West Department of Education, because in their application for citizenship, the Gupta family used the ‘social responsibility programme’ in the North West province as a means to justify why their citizenship should be granted under exceptional circumstances.
OUTA provided the Committee with a presentation and additional evidence (attached) that focused on key persons the emails identified as having close and suspect relationships with members of the Gupta family as well as associates of Gupta-related companies.
Members of the Committee wanted OUTA to talk to the authenticity and admissibility of the leaked emails and documents. A lot of the focus was on the OUTA affidavit and whether these emails could conclusively prove corruption or fraud. The Committee wanted to know whether the emails linked the Minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba, definitively to a meeting with the Guptas or whether any of the officials mentioned in the emails are implicitly implicated in fraud or corruption.
The MEC and HOD for Education and Sports Development in the North West told the Committee that the province had no knowledge of the ‘social investment programme’ or feeding scheme mentioned in the letter from the Guptas to the Home Affairs Ministers justifying early naturalisation.
The department was told 77 schools were sent a letter in April 2013 inviting them to be part of the competition. Upon further investigation, it was found that some of the schools were duplicated and no longer existed and this left 68 schools. Of those, it was discovered 33 schools benefited from this competition.
The Committee was told that it seems Gupta-linked companies invited schools to take part in a card drawing competition, i.e. to draw invitation or congratulatory cards for the well-known 2013 Gupta wedding held in Sun City. Winning pupils and schools received ‘tokens of appreciation’ ranging from hula hoops, soccer balls, cones, netball bibs, as well as monetary prizes ranging from R1 000 to R15 000.
The inquiry proceeded with the Home Affairs Deputy Director-General: Immigration Services, Mr Jackson Mackay. The Committee was very interested to know what procedures were followed, if any, in terms of issuing work permits for Indian nationals to work at ANN7 or other Gupta companies as far as the requirements that citizens be given first priority for vacancies.
Members wanted to know on what permits Atul Gupta and Rajesh Kumar Gupta initially enter South Africa between 1994 and 1998; if the Minister of Home Affairs ever spoke to Mr Mackay about this process of naturalisation of the Gupta brothers, and if at any point; Mr Mackay ever communicated with Mr Ashu Chawla or have met and spoken to any of the Gupta brothers. The Committee found it very difficult to understand how Ashu Chawla, a well known person in the Gupta business empire, becomes a very central person that interacts with Mr Mackay’s department officials without his knowledge.
Next up, the Committee heard from Mr Vusi Mkhize, the former Deputy Director-General for Civic Services in the Home Affairs Department. Members wanted to know if the Guptas were given different and preferential treatment in terms of being given an opportunity to renounce Indian citizenship sequent to getting South African citizenship, unlike other applicants who have renounced their initial citizenship, but are still awaiting the naturalisation ceremony. The Committee also focused intensely on the absence of proof of renunciation of citizenship that the Department has failed to produce since last year.
During questioning of Mr Mkhize, it came to light that the letter of appeal by Mr Chawla to the Minister on behalf of Ajay Gupta and his family only mentions two people, the mother and the wife, but the recommendations by the officials to the Minister include these people as if they have applied as a family. Members claimed they have not and that was why Ajay Gupta refused to renounce, because he was not part of the original application. The Committee felt this information takes them back more than a year, because every single document of the family stated they applied as a family. The Minister has said it, the Deputy Minister has said it, and the director-General has said it. Members questioned how you give the mother citizenship on the strength of Ajay Gupta’s investments.
The Chairperson said the Committee had dealt with phase 1 of the inquiry into the naturalisation of the Gupta families. At some point during engagements, the Committee decided to expand the terms of reference to include the entire Gupta family and associates. As a recap, he said this matter was referred to the Committee on 15 June 2017 to investigate matters in the public domain, in particular the leaked emails. There had been an engagement with the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) on documentation that had been requested to be submitted and a follow-up engagement with the Director-General and the Minister of Home Affairs and this meeting was to deal with the discrepancies during those engagements. These discrepancies have been put into question form that has been referred back to the Department and DHA’s response has led to this meeting (the start of phase 2).
First there will be a representation from the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA), because they are the relevant people to engage on the status and the findings of the emails. This will be followed by the North West Education MEC, because parts of the reasons for early naturalisation of the Gupta families are based on a donation given to schools in the North West. A team had been dispatched to verify these claimed donations or social responsibilities, but the Committee “did not get much joy through its engagement with the schools”. The Committee then resolved to invite the MEC to come and confirm any knowledge of the donations or any relationship between the North West Department of Education and the Gupta-related companies. The inquiry will not only be on naturalisation, but also on exactly when the Gupta families arrived in the country.
There are a number of people listed in the report that were the political leadership in charge during the Guptas’ first entry into the country and the Chairperson gave an overview of the former and current Department officials that will be speaking in the inquiry, relevant to the naturalisation process. After the DHA naturalisation adjudication committee made its finding, the family made an appeal to the Minister and the Minister was also included on the programme to speak.
The Committee picked up that there are two individuals very central in the facilitation of the visas, in particular from India, who are employed by DHA. These individuals were identified as Major Kobese and Gideon Christians and they too have been invited to speak. The CEO of Sahara Computers, Mr Ashu Chawla has also become very central to this inquiry, because of his interactions with Mr Christians and Mr Kobese. The Committee has tried to get hold of Mr Chawla for quite some time without success. He is a South African that was naturalised 17 years ago and he must be found before the end of this inquiry. It was very important for Parliament to understand his involvement with DHA officials. The only option now was to instruct the police to look for him and Members would have to, when the time came, decide on the approach to be taken.
The Chairperson said this time around, everyone that will be talking will be under oath. For the record, both the mother and the wife of Ajay Gupta did not lawfully qualify for early naturalisation. The early naturalisation of all of them was later approved, except for Ajay who refused to renounce his Indian citizenship, because India did not allow for dual citizenship.
On Friday the Committee will start preparing its report so that it can be finalised once Members returned on 9 October. He clarified the time allocations for the speakers and identified the Members who will be leading the questions for each of the speakers.
The Chairperson proceeded to place Mr Rudie Heyneke, OUTA’s lead on State Capture, under oath.
Mr Heyneke said he handed a memory stick to the Committee Secretary that contained the presentation, supporting evidence and a folder with the Gupta emails that have been retrieved. He proceeded to make his presentation (see document attached).
Chairperson: Can you give us the case number and where was the case opened?
Mr Heyneke: I do not have the case number right at hand, but I will present the Committee Secretary with the information just after the presentation. The case was opened in Brooklyn. We follow up regularly on all the cases we opened. If I remember correctly, this specific case was combined with another case the Hawks are attending to at this time. I will give you the details as well as the spokesperson we speak to at the Hawks – his contact details to verify.
Chairperson: How do you categorise the case, i.e. is it fraud or corruption?
Mr Heyneke: It is a pity that Advocate Fick is not here to present you with the details of the case, because she made the affidavit. It basically came down to the fraudulent way people received and got their visas, as well as work permits. The affidavit spells it out and I did not prepare on the contents thereof.
Chairperson: Did you make Home Affairs aware that you opened such a case?
Mr Heyneke: I am not sure if our legal department told Home Affairs that we opened a case.
Mr D Gumede (ANC): (to the parliamentary legal adviser): What is the admissibility of the leaked emails and documents? (To Mr Heyneke): How was the authenticity of the emails established?
Mr Heyneke: I am not a legal adviser. We presented the information that we obtained and it is up to the Committee to get a legal opinion on that. On 29 May 2017 (at that stage I was doing investigations for OUTA) I was handed the emails by our CEO, Mr Wayne Duvenhage. He did not reveal to me where he got it. If you remember correctly, week or two before that the first media articles were published with the contents of the mails as the subject. We contracted a reputable information technology company to establish their opinion of the mails and they conveyed to us that they found it as authentic. I do not have a report any other evidence than oral evidence that they told us it was authentic. I think what is more important, like I said before, is the number of mails that we received that was on that hard drive – thousands and thousands of mails. The Committee here has got witnesses that they called that can verify the mails. I think that will be up to the Committee with advise from the legal adviser. If they can show the mails to the witness and ask the witness: did you send this mail or not?
Mr Gumede: Let us go to page 5 of the OUTA affidavit of Stefanie Fick. Do you know Ms Stefanie Fick?
Mr Heyneke: Yes, Ms Fick is the head of the legal department at OUTA.
Mr Gumede: In paragraph 5 of this affidavit, it says that amongst the Gupta emails were evidence of misconduct on the part of Malusi Gigaba, Rajesh Gupta, Ashu Chawla and Gideon Christians that constitutes crimes of corruptions and fraud. What is this evidence?
Mr Heyneke: I am sure that the evidence that was talked about there is part of the affidavit or the annexures to the affidavit, and that is the evidence obtained. We did not go any further or outside the mails at that stage. The rest of the affidavit or annexures attached to the affidavit will be the evidence on which it was based.
Chairperson: Other than what you just said, is there any other email that we can be made aware of or any meeting where the Minister of Home Affairs with a link with these particular emails that are in the affidavit, do we have any other evidence we can look at?
Mr Heyneke: All the evidence that we have on this matter is contained either in this affidavit of Adv Fick or in the presentation that I made earlier.
Mr Gumede: Let us go to paragraph 19 of the affidavit from your legal adviser. It says on or about the 12th of February 2015 Chawla sent Christians various passports of the Gupta family. It would seem that Christian may have facilitated the immigration of the Gupta family to South Africa. At the very least it demonstrates improper influence by the Gupta family on DHA. The email and its attachments are annexed as annexure SF16. Have you have established this as fact or is it still an allegation? We cannot go deeper into improper conduct without facts. We cannot use allegations or ‘what seems’.
Mr Heyneke: No, we have not established anything as fact. We can just present what we presented to the Committee as well as to the law enforcement agencies. I do not think it is OUTA’s business to establish the facts, that is up to the law enforcement agencies, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the court. We can just provide evidence or information as we have it.
Mr H Hoosen (DA): In studying the emails, have you come across any information anywhere in those emails that suggest that any meetings could have taken place or proposed to take place between Minister Gigaba and any member of the Gupta family? Did you find any information that links Mr Gigaba directly to any meeting with a member of the Gupta family?
Mr Heyneke: No, we have not found evidence or mail that shows that the Minister Gigaba was directly involved in a meeting with one of these family members. In the same breath, I am sure we have not gone through all of the mails. We do have a programme that was written for us to make searching for specific mails, items and people easier, but e.g. we will write ‘Van Rooyen’ in a certain way, but in the Gupta emails it was spelled with an ‘a’. It is difficult to know everything in the emails. The Hawks as well as the Zondo Commission have access and I am sure they will conduct further investigations into the emails.
Mr A Figlan (DA): Why is the person who did the affidavit not here? We want clarity on the case number, because the person who did the affidavit would be able to give clarity.
Mr Heyneke: I was instructed by the CEO of OUTA to do the presentation and I do have the case number information with me, I just do not have it at hand now. I will provide it to the Committee Secretary afterwards.
Mr D Kekana (ANC): Did the Minister attend all the events you have mentioned; or other people who were invited to the Gupta events?
Mr Heyneke: We only found the invites. I cannot confirm if the Minister did participate or showed up at those events.
Ms H Mkhaliphi (EFF): In your presentation you mentioned that some of the information that talks about the requirements was reported in the Huffington Post. It was for a waiver for whom in the Gupta family?
Mr Heyneke: If I can just read the two lines in the Huffington Post: ‘I have decided by virtue of the powers vested in me of section 5(9)(a) of the South African Citizens Amendment Act of 2010, to waive the residential requirements in regards to your application for naturalisation and grant you early naturalisation. That was the letter written to Mr AK Gupta and his family regarding the application.
Ms D Raphuti (ANC): What mandates you or what empowers you to invade one’s privacy? Is it not an invasion of privacy?
The Chairperson: Maybe you want to share with the Committee the source of these emails again. Do you have them as copies or on a hard drive in line with what Ms Raphuti just raised?
Mr Heyneke: These mails are in the public domain. It was published by Amabhungane a while ago.
Mr Gumede: This affidavit was based on the emails and this is why I concentrate on this affidavit, because it is a crystallisation of all the emails. As Parliament we have to depend on evidence, on fact and on the truth. In paragraph 22 you say: ‘The apparent close relationship between Christians, Gigaba, Chawla and Tony Gupta should be investigated as it appears from the evidence that Chawla and Tony Gupta did not have to follow prescribed procedures and received preferential treatment from government officials’. I agree that it should be investigated, but the next sentence says: ‘It also appears as if Tony Gupta may have the ability to influence decisions taken by Gigaba and the reason therefore should be properly investigated’. This is not fact – it is a suspicion. Who rewarded Christians with what?
Mr Heyneke: When making an affidavit to make a criminal complaint, you are alerting legal authorities to investigate something and you can have a suspicion that can be investigated that can lead to a guilty or not guilty finding. It is difficult for me to respond on someone else’s affidavit. It is not only related to this specific matter, but if you look at a wider spectrum, you can see there was a good relationship between the different parties and that the Guptas tried to influence some high ranking members and executives.
Mr Heyneke: On the case number, it was in Brooklyn Pretoria and case number 892/09/2017.
Chairperson: Thank you very much. It was now important for the Committee to establish proper facts and the admissibility of the emails.
North West Department of Education
Chairperson: We have sent you a list of questions that we wanted you to respond on. It was not a legal requirement that the donations to schools will form part of any naturalisation, but this was cited as motivation. We received information that Gupta-related companies donated to 75 schools in the North West province. Earlier when we were dealing with phase 1 of the inquiry, we announced that we wanted to invite the Premier of the North West to come and clarify such matters. We later learned that he has taken earlier retirement and the only person that can navigate these issues is the MEC, together with the accounting officer of the department. We did dispense a team of researchers to the North West and a number of schools were engaged and very few schools have confirmed to have somehow interacted with the design of the wedding invitation.
MEC Jonas Lehare, North West Education Department: The MEC will give an overview and the HOD will provide a report.
Chairperson: The HOD will have to take the oath. Proceed with your overview.
MEC Lehare proceeded to read a statement (see attached).
Chairperson: Thank you very much MEC and I take it the HOD will further elaborate on some of the issues you have raised. Do you have a document that can be circulated for the record?
Ms Stephinah Semaswe, HOD, North West Education Department: We have not circulated any document.
Chairperson: Is it a printed document?
Ms Semaswe: I do have a printed document, as well as supporting documentation.
Chairperson: We will be able to note the issues, but we will definitely be requesting the documents to be made available.
Ms Mkhaliphi: Even the presentation of the MEC.
The Chairperson placed Ms Semaswe under affirmation.
Ms Semaswe proceeded with her presentation (see attached).
Chairperson: The MEC has been very detailed and he was not under oath so you have to include the details.
Ms Semaswe proceeded to read the schools that both benefited and has not benefited from the competition.
Chairperson: Is there anything you or the MEC might not have covered?
Ms Semaswe: Parliament wrote to us, wrote to me as the HOD, but unfortunately I did not receive the emails due to an incorrect email address. I only became aware of the correspondence after it was received by the MEC and the MEC referred it to me as the HOD. We then worked on the information that was required by Parliament and we sent it back. Thereafter we started on our own to try and find out what really happened.
Ms J Nkomo (IFP): One is actually surprised that none of this was ever picked up as early as it should have been. Who are the people that are supposed to be giving you such information so that you should have known as soon as possible that Oakbay was busy doing these social investments? Do those companies that you mentioned stand to benefit or are they benefitting from any tenders within the department or even the broader section of the provincial government? There were schools that you mentioned that received donations, and some of the schools actually said that they were given these sign up papers where they need to acknowledge that they received those donations and some of those schools stated that they did not receive those donations. There is a principle in one of the schools who said that they received so many laptops and he said that he never signed for those laptops and somebody signed on his behalf. DHA officials accompanied some of your officials when they were going to your schools to check on these social investments. It was quite problematic to us and is that how things are done in the province?
Ms Semaswe: We have circuit managers, sub-district managers, district directors and up to head office level it was difficult to pick this up early enough. After we have been made aware by Parliament, we started making enquiries on why we have not been made aware of this matter earlier. We are getting responses even as we speak and we will consolidate all the responses to know exactly what happened and what action we need to take from there going forward. We learned that these companies that interacted with our schools are somehow related to Oakbay Investments. That is why we are using the same terminology that was even used by Parliament when communicating with us. The records at our disposal show Sundown Ranch Sports Academy that issued a letter on behalf of JIC Mining and we understood at a later stage that JIC Mining is somehow related to Oakbay. In terms of proof, we have documents with a Sundown Ranch Sports Academy letterhead. JIC Mining Services has a working relationship record with our province, because it is a mining province and Sundown Ranch is in the vicinity of Sun City. My understanding is that whoever was coordinating this might have taken advantage of the proximity of those schools to Sun City and the existing relationship between our province and the mining houses. We do not have any documents that bear the Oakbay letterhead. The documents we have so far have JIC Mining Services and Sundown Ranch Sports Academy letterheads. Sundown Ranch Sports Academy was very clear that they are doing this on behalf of JIC Mining and they communicated directly with our schools.
Ms Mkhaliphi: You mentioned Odi Primary School never benefited, but we have a document in front of the Committee signed by the Deputy Principal acknowledging receiving a donation. When we started this process our staff members tried to get hold of the schools and then we were told a DHA official also recently visited the schools. Can you tell us the name of that official?
Ms Semaswe: We have this protocol in our schools that each and everything thing that gets delivered, when you sign off on the delivery note, the person who signs must also make an entry into a logbook. However, it might happen that some principals may not make an entry into the logbook, but is common knowledge. When we started engaging with our schools, after receiving a letter from Parliament, we have discovered that when DHA officials visited our schools they contacted some of our district managers to let them know they will be visiting schools. This is also not how we do things. Anyone who visits our schools must get permission from the HOD to gain access. This applies to companies, individuals or institutions – you have to get permission to access our schools. The district director, in small issues, in consultation with the HOD, can give such permissions.
I want to make the Honourable House aware that this happened quite a number of years ago and some of the schools have changed principals and Odi Primary is one of the schools that changed principals. I cannot say with certainty who did what at the moment, however, we have decided to fully investigate this matter to know who did what and what really happened. The reference of the DHA official who visited our school is 18745318 and we might not have his name, but we do have his cell number.
Chairperson: Leave the number and give it to us in private.
Mr Kekana: Was this a donation or a competition?
Ms Semaswe: I can confirm that those were not donations, but tokens of appreciation. This was a drawing competition and it indicated the prizes that would be won. The communication also invited principals and learners to a lunch where the prizes will be given. Somewhere it was written “sports equipment donation’, but when you read the invitation as written ‘this is a token of appreciation after having participated in the competition for a card drawing’. The learners either drew a well wishing card or a congratulatory card for a wedding or a general wedding card. After taking part in the competition, a lunch was thrown and the learners and principals were invited and the ‘tokens of appreciation’ were given to the learners and teachers.
Ms Dambuza: The HOD confirmed only two schools were painted, but in terms of the cost, can the painting amount to R8 000? There is also a letter confirming receipt of the computers. What is your opinion on this?
Ms Semaswe: Only two classrooms were painted and not two schools. It is alleged that four classrooms were painted.
Mr Figlan: It has been confirmed that Tebogo Primary did not get anything, but the Committee has evidence that they did get something. Can you clarify that? If this is found to be criminal, will here be disciplinary action against these principals? There is a school governing board (SGB) and administrative staff in schools and they are supposed to be involved in stuff like this.
Ms Semaswe: I have indicated earlier that anything received by a school should be entered into the logbook which was an official document of the school. We will investigate further into what really happened. After a thorough investigation, should we find that any officials or principals contravened any policies, action will be taken. The MEC has already indicated that we have called a meeting with principals and SGB chairpersons of the affected schools on Friday where this matter will be addressed. This will be investigates to its conclusion.
Mr Hoosen: I think the information you provided to us is critically important. You obviously went to the very depths of investigating the information that was provided to you. This was significantly important, because in their application for citizenship, the Gupta family used this so-called social responsibility programme in your province as a means to justify why their citizenship should be granted under exceptional circumstances. You now have investigated this and found that a lot of the information they have provided as motivation is not true. Can you state categorically that the information that we have received and the DHA has received, based on that motivation the Guptas supplied to Home Affairs and to the Minister for reasons being exceptional circumstances, in your view, is that investment they made in your province, given what you have found, exceptional in those circumstances?
Ms Semaswe: At the moment we are not aware of any social responsibility by Oakbay or the Gupta family in our schools. All we know about is the competition learners participated in to draw a card for the wedding. Should we learn anything else upon our further investigation, we will indicate that to Parliament.
Ms Raphuti: HOD, you stated in your presentation that the Deputy Director-Generals must be involved with this kind of donations. Do you have any protocols for receiving that kind of donations? What are the roles of district leaders on such donations? Why should a DDG be involved in a R10 000 donation?
Ms Semaswe: The point of coordination resides in the office of the DDG responsible for institutional management, governance and support to schools. In the district there is a Deputy Chief Education Specialist (DCES) responsible for projects and programmes who reports to the District Director. When someone wants to do business or interact with the department and reports to the district, he or she will be shown the relevant person to report to which is the DCES. The DCES will report to the District Director and the District Director will take up the matter with the DDG who will then discuss the matter with the HOD.
Chairperson: You have not seen this letter and we will provide you with a copy. This letter was written by Oakbay as part of the request for early naturalisation. They talk to a donation of equipment to the value of about R1 million and is there any feeding scheme you know about in any of your schools that are supported by Oakbay? If you round up all those donations, does the value come to R1 million?
Ms Semaswe: The value can be calculated, because we know exactly which schools benefited and the items that were benefited. At the moment we are not aware of an Oakbay feeding scheme, however, earlier on I clarified the issue of the relationships between companies. I am just being informed by my colleagues that there is a company called Tiger Brands that runs a feeding scheme at one of our schools. We do not know whether this company is linked or not linked.
Chairperson: Do you know anything about the lunch packs given to schools by Oakbay, including KFC?
Ms Semaswe: As I have said, we are not aware of this, but we are taking note.
Chairperson: There is a line in this letter that reads: ‘many of the kids told us that the meal we provided was the first time they ate KFC’. This is in the letter that was written to the Minister of Home Affairs in motivating for early naturalisation. Your department has the responsibility to reach our children. We really appreciate what you have shared with the Committee.
Jackson Mackay, DDG: Immigration, DHA
Chairperson: We just had a consultation with DHA. Yesterday, as we closed the meeting after the allocation of Members to areas of focus, an arrangement was then made to provide the Department via the Parliamentary Liaison Officer (PLO) with a set of questions we wanted these individuals to speak on. I just learned now that they were not made aware of the questions and they were ready to speak out of cuff without documents. I consulted with Members now and we agreed to allow these officials to go back and look at the questions properly to allow them an opportunity to go and look at these issues properly and prepare a written response. We will then convene today at 16h00 in the afternoon to proceed with Mr Mackay.
The meeting resumed at 16h00.
Chairperson: This will be a normal engagement and not a disciplinary hearing and Ms Raphuthi will be leading us on the identified issues.
The Chairperson proceeded to put Mr Mackay under oath.
Ms Raphuti: What procedures were followed, if any, in terms of issuing work permits for Indian nationals to work at ANN7 or other Gupta companies as far as the requirements that citizens be given first priority for vacancies?
Mr Mackay: The people working at ANN7 were issued with intra-company work transfer visas to work for Infinity Media, a company in India. ANN7 was set up in South Africa, but the holding company in India is called Infinity Media. The people who were brought here were working for Infinity Media in India and were transferred to a South African company, affiliated to Infinity Media, called ANN7. When ANN7 started, they sent employees to set up operations through intra-company transfer work visas and they qualified as an affiliate or subsidiary of that particular company. For the purpose of intra-company transfers, there is no need for the position to be advertised as it is a transfer for specific projects. The people were brought in to come and work for ANN7. There were quite a few of South Africans working at ANN7 as well, but they required certain key personnel to come and set up a company. Section 19(5) of the Immigration Act provides that an intra-company work visa may be issued by the Director-General to a foreigner who complies with the prescribed inquiries. The holder of an intra-company work visa may conduct work only for the employer that is referred to in subsection 5. In this case the employer would have been ANN7 and in accordance with the requirements set out in his/her work visa which is that they can only conduct work for that company that brought them to South Africa and for that particular purpose. Regulation 18, subsection 8 on the Immigration Regulations provides that an application for an intra-company work visa shall be accompanied by the foreigner’s contract of employment with the company abroad valid for a period not less than six months. This relates to the question that was asked as well by the Portfolio Committee with regard to whether the posts were vacant for a period ofsix months before people were employed in those posts there. There is no requirement in the Immigration Act that the post be vacant for less than six months. The foreigner’s contract of employment abroad must be valid for not less than six months. For example, let us say Infinity Media wanted to place technicians or wanted to place any type of person or transfer them to ANN7 in South Africa. That person should have worked for the company, Infinity Media, in the country abroad in India for at least six months or more before they could be placed in any of the affiliate companies in South Africa. The second requirements is a letter from the country abroad confirming that the foreigner shall be transferred to a branch, a subsidiary or an a affiliate of that company in the Republic; and thirdly the branch or subsidiary or an affiliate in Republic of confirming the transfer of that foreigner and specifying the occupation and capacity in which that foreigner shall be employed. An intra-company work visa shall be issued for a period that does not exceed four years and it is not renewable. People coming in on intra-company work transfer visas are expected to come in for a specific purpose and for the period that they are going to be here. They are expected to do what the contracts says they need to do and then they need to leave South Africa and return to either the parent company or the affiliate company from which they were transferred. People who come to South Africa for business meetings do not require a business visa. They are issued with a visitor’s visa for business meetings. That means that when/if you come into South Africa on a business visa or visitor’s visa for meetings, you cannot be employed or found to be working for remuneration whilst you are in the Republic of South Africa.
Ms Raphuti: When can DHA provide a list of all Indian nationals who apply/appear for various visas under the Gupta-related group of companies who entered South Africa in the period of 2013-2017?
Mr Mackay: Our visa system does not record according to specific companies, but it records according to the details of the clients. If I apply for a visa it will have my particulars and it will not be stored under the company that I am going to work for. If I have to search for Mackay I will find Mackay, but if I would have to search for the company that I am going to work for in the system I will be able not retrieve it because the system is not set up that way. We can search the physical applications from storage and we think that this will take us up to three months for us to be able to retrieve such records because it will have to be done via the mission in India from the hard copies that they have at the mission.
Chairperson: Where you are sitting now, you are not able to confirm whether these people have gone back to their country?
Mr Mackay: We can and we have that information for ANN7. We do not have it for the affiliate company or any other companies that they might have in South Africa.
Chairperson: Did you verify that Infinity Media actually exists in India?
Mr Mackay: Yes, it was verified by our officials at the mission.
Chairperson: Do you have a record of that verification?
Mr Mackay: Yes, there should be a record.
Chairperson: Can we receive that record? It is very important, because we know now that part of the recruitment, a particular company was used to bring in these people. Let us agree that tomorrow morning you must have that record, because we are still continuing with the responses from the Department.
Mr Mackay: I will see that you get the information.
Ms Raphuti: When can you submit the visa information of Indian nationals and Gupta-related companies?
Mr Mackay: My answer that I just gave relates to questions 2, 3, 4, and 5, because they are all related. We will only be able to get this hard copy information from the mission in India where we would have to through all applications made in India and take out those related to Gupta companies and affiliates and then we will be able to provide such information. It is a manual and arduous task and we would need to send a team there who could do that for us. That is why we think it will take us a minimum of three months to be able to retrieve the physical records, because it is not kept on an electronic system.
Chairperson: Infinity Media was the main company that recruited the majority of Indians to South Africa during that period of time.
Mr Mackay: The question refers to ‘visas issued to Indian nationals and Gupta-related companies’ and there are quite a lot of Gupta-related companies. We would have to check all the Gupta-related companies and go through the manual records.
Chairperson: From the point of the position that you hold at DHA, how many of these companies do you know of?
Mr Mackay: I know of Sahara Computers and ANN7. It was never in my interest to know of these companies.
Chairperson: How many people were employed at ANN7 through temporary work visas?
Mr Mackay: I will have to check my records.
The meeting adjourned for 10 minutes for Members to go vote in the House.
Ms Raphuti: Could it be checked whether the requirements of the posts being vacant and advertised by remaining unfilled by a South African was complied with for Mr Ajay Gupta’s initial work permit?
Mr Mackay: Ajay Gupta applied under the Aliens Control Act of 1991. The Aliens Control Act made provision for a work permit to be issued for the purposes of employment, investment and running an own business or being a partner in a business. In accordance with the Aliens Control Act, Ajay Gupta was granted a work permit for own business based on the recommendation from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) dated 30 April 2001. These are the records we went back to check, because it predates all of us. It was because he made an initial investment into the company and he was appointed at the time as the financial director of the company established in 2001 or 2000.
Chairperson: What Act came in 1995?
Mr Mackay: It was still the Aliens Control Act.
Chairperson: Who was the first person to enter?
Mr Mackay: Atul Gupta.
Chairperson: Which year was that?
Mr Mackay: 11 January 1994.
Chairperson: What Act was that?
Mr Mackay: The Aliens Control Act.
Chairperson: What permit did he acquire?
Mr Mackay: He was on a visitor’s visa for non-remunerative business activities – like a tourist prospecting for business opportunities.
Chairperson: Do you have a record of that?
Mr Mackay: Yes. Can I also clarify previous questions?
Mr Mackay: On the question asked on the intra-company transfers and the companies responsible for sending people from India to come and work for ANN7, I have been cleared on the matter by our official in India. There is a company called Essel Media in India and this company owns Zee TV. Essel bought shares in Infinity Media and Infinity Media is registered in South Africa as the holding company of ANN7 and the New Age newspaper. Essel Media bought shares in Infinity Media…
Chairperson: How many shares? Is there a shares certificate?
Mr Mackay: We will have to check our records. I have it on the record from officials at the Indian mission that Essel Media that owns Zee TV in India had bought shares in Infinity Media in South Africa, the holding company of ANN7 and the New Age. The intra-company transfers were granted on that basis, because of the affiliation between Essel Media and Infinity Media in South Africa.
Chairperson: We can agree that this led to the issuing of work permits or visas via Essel Media. The permits did not come through Infinity Media, a South African company that did not have a branch in India.
Mr Mackay: All that I know is that the company back in India is called Essel Media and the intra-company work visas would show that company the people were being transferred from.
Chairperson: I am going to give you time to consult o this point and come back to us tomorrow.
Ms Raphuti: On issues relating to companies, why can’t we ask DTI to furnish us with that kind of information?
Chairperson: We will deal with that later.
Ms Raphuti: On what permits did Atul Gupta and Rajesh Kumar Gupta initially enter South Africa between 1994 and 1998?
Mr Mackay: Atul Kumar Gupta initially entered South Africa at OR Tambo on 11 January 1994 on a visitor’s visa for non-remunerative business activities. Rajesh Kumar Gupta initially entered South Africa at OR Tambo on 22 April 1998 on a visitor’s visa for non-remunerative business activities.
Ms Raphuti: Is there a record of Rajesh Kumar and his family leaving South Africa between the expiry of his initial work permit on 21 April 1999 and the approval of the conversion to business permit on 29 August 2000?
Mr Mackay: Yes. Departures recorded on the movement control systems show: 15 June 1999 (OR Tambo), 14 August 1999 (OR Tambo), 24 September 1999 (Oshoek port of entry), and 3 November 1999 (OR Tambo), 22 April 2000 (OR Tambo) and 21 August 2000 (OR Tambo).
Mr Kekana: Do you know Mr Rajesh Sundaram?
Mr Mackay: I do not know him personally, but I do know of a Rajesh Sundaram that wrote a book about the Guptas and a Rajesh Sundaram that laid a complaint with the Department.
Chairperson: We have been trying to deal with this complaint and no one wanted to take ownership.
Mr Kekana: It is alleged that in your department that deals with permits and visas there is huge corruption and you are part of it. Did you know about it?
Mr Mackay: I do not know that I am part of any corruption.
Mr Kekana: Did you know about the complaint against DHA officials that deals with visas and permits?
Mr Mackay: Indeed. There are a lot of complaints and allegations made against corrupt DHA officials. There are investigations being done and I know currently there are investigations being done by our counter corruption unit. DHA takes these allegations serious and that is why we have a counter corruption unit that investigates. I am not a part of corruption in DHA.
Mr Kekana: What do you know about the wedding guests that landed at Waterkloof?
Mr Mackay: What I read in the newspapers.
Mr Kekana: What do you know about the wedding guests that landed at Waterkloof?
Mr Mackay: I do know about the incident of the Guptas landing at Waterkloof base and the fact that some of our officials were called to the airport to clear some of the people that were on the plane. There was an inquiry about that and we have responded to that inquiry and it is an open record.
Mr Kekana: Who specifically checked the visas of the wedding guests?
Mr Mackay: It would have been the officials that were on duty or called to be on duty.
Mr Kekana: No. Can you provide the names of the officials who were involved?
Mr Mackay: I can supply a list of the officials who were on duty.
Ms Mkhaliphi: Have you ever met or spoken to any of the Gupta brothers? If yes, when and what were the details of the engagement?
Mr Mackay: I have never met nor spoken to anyone of the Gupta brothers.
Ms Mkhaliphi: As the DDG of immigration services, do you personally deal with the naturalisation application of the Guptas?
Mr Mackay: No, I do not deal with naturalisation. It is a civics issue.
Ms Mkhaliphi: Did the Minister of Home Affairs ever speak to you about this process of naturalisation of the Gupta brothers, at any point?
Mr Mackay: No, never.
Ms Dambuza: You agreed that there was a complaint by Mr Rajesh Sundaram. What did you do as the head of the unit? If there was an investigation and can you provide us with a report on the outcome of that investigation?
Mr Mackay: There was an investigation and we do have the files on that investigation and the outcome available for the Committee. Our Minister at the time, Minister Pandor, responded on the outcome in Parliament on that matter, because there was a parliamentary question on the issue.
Ms Dambuza: Can we get that report and the response from your office to Rajesh Sundaram.
Mr Mackay: I did not repond to Mr Sundaram, because I did not get the complaint via Mr Sundaram. I received the complaint directly from our Minister. It was a media enquiry and a journalist referred to Rajesh Sundaram that had complained. We then took up the matter as it was brought my attention by ministerial staff as well as our then head of communications, Mr Ronnie Mamoepa. That was how we conducted the investigation. I had not done the investigation in response to Mr Sundaram’s complaint.
Chairperson: You are not aware that Mr Sundaram sent emails to the Director-General and yourself regarding the matter you ended up investigating.
Mr Mackay: I became aware when we started investigating the matter when it was brought to my attention.
Chairperson: Do you have senior management meetings in your department with the Director-General?
Mr Mackay: Yes we do.
Chairperson: Was this matter discussed at a senior management level in the presence of the Director-General?
Mr Mackay: No it was not.
Chairperson: Are you saying the Director-General might not even know about this investigation?
Mr Mackay: You would need to ask the Director-General.
Chairperson: I am asking you the question Mr Mackay. You report to the Director-General. You investigate and make a finding on a case and the Director-General does not know about it?
Mr Mackay: He should know about it.
Chairperson: Through what process?
Mr Mackay: The Minister’s parliamentary question response would have gone through the office of the Director-General.
Ms Dambuza: Can Mr Mackay tell us how many employees were sent from India to set up operations at ANN7 – the first group and the second group? How long did it take to process their visas?
Mr Mackay: I cannot answer on the processing of the visas, because it is done at the mission in India. When we did the raid at ANN7 in 2013, we came across 40 employees that were there. I would have to go to our records to get the number that came after 2014. We have the list with the names of the 40 people found on the premises.
Ms Dambuza: We need that information from India. What are your responsibilities as a government official to ensure that the laws of this country are honoured and respected? In the recruitment process by these companies, there is an allegation that there were more than enough sufficiently qualified South African candidates available for hiring across all departments and stations. You just issue visas and do not verify if it is line what other legislative frameworks of the country?
Mr Mackay: We work very closely with the Department of Labour on these issues. In our Act there is a proviso that if you open a business in South Africa, 60% of the staff should be South African. The Immigration Act is there to protect work for South Africans.
Chairperson: Can you talk more on the 40 people you found at ANN7? What kind of skills were these people bringing into the country?
Mr Mackay: We have the names as well as the intra-company permits issued at the time. The intra-company transfer visas are issued to a company that wants to bring in people from a subsidiary or mother company for a specific purpose and for a short period of time. In most cases it would be related to projects.
Chairperson: It is on record that most of these people came with visitor’s visas and maybe two or three people ca e with intra-company work visas.
Mr Mackay: I am not aware that there were such people were employed. I am talking to what came out of the investigation at the time.
Chairperson: The 40 people you are talking about ANN& - all of them had intra-company transfer visas?
Mr Mackay: No – 31 were on intra-company transfer visa and nine were on visitor’s visas with a condition for business meetings.
Chairperson: Labourers that were there – all of them came through with intra-company visas?
Mr Mackay: I do not know what they were doing at that particular time, but those we encountered were mainly technicians when they came in.
Chairperson: When applying for intra-company work visas, do they state the reason why those people are coming in and the special skills they are providing to the company?
Mr Mackay: Yes.
Chairperson: What did you find?
Mr Mackay: These people were mostly the technical people.
Chairperson: Are these the people paid in Rupees when they get back to India? There are records and affidavits that a number of these labourers were recruited in India and brought here and paid in Rupees when taken back to India. They were staying in appalling conditions and when they arrived at the airport they would have to pay a fine, because they ‘overstayed their welcome’. Are you aware of that?
Mr Mackay: No, I am not aware of that.
Ms Raphuti: On the penalties, who these penalties paid to? Do you have any knowledge of the Department charging people penalties for overstaying?
Chairperson: The point you are making differs from the affidavit the Committee has. It reads: “Even labourers, skilled and unskilled, used for the construction of the studio were brought from India and made to live in Midrand in subhuman conditions and work around the clock. They were paid in Indian Rupees in India. Ajay Gupta told me that South African labourers were lazy, unionised, expensive and lacked skills. He said he could bring any number of workers from India on tourist visas to work at the site without fearing anyone. Ashu Chawla coordinated with the President’s office and the DHA office to ensure that these visas were issued very quickly”. This was in the affidavit. You do not agree with this here?
Mr Mackay: I cannot comment on that. Somebody made an affidavit and we did an inspection there. I am giving you the facts we got out of the inspection. I am not saying it could not have happened; it is something that needs to be investigated.
Ms Kenye: It was said Gupta companies assisted in job creation noting that we have a poverty and unemployment challenge in South Africa. What happens once the intra-company transfer terms ends? How many South Africans were actually employed thereafter?
Mr Mackay: The intra-company visa that is issued is normally for a project or short-term work with the company. After the period has passed or after the work has been done, the person is supposed to leave South Africa. It only has a maximum validity period of four years and it is not renewable. If there is a requirement for the company to recruit people in that particular post and they want to recruit a foreigner, they would now need to apply for a work permit and a work permit is quite clear that you need to show that you have tested the South African market to see if there is a South African for the job. Only if you could not find a South African will you be issued with a work permit. I would not be able to give you statistics on whether those posts were filled and whether it has been filled by South Africans or foreigners. There was another question on penalties asked by Ms Raphuti that I omitted. When a person has overstayed in the country, you could either pay the fine at the airport on your way out of South Africa, because you would have been given a notification that you overstayed; or you could pay the penalty at the mission abroad.
Chairperson: The affidavit speaks exactly to the point you are making, i.e. the majority of these labourers were brought with tourist visas, they overstayed, made to pay a fine and reimbursed when they get to India.
The meeting adjourned for 10 minutes to allow Members to go vote in the House.
Mr Figlan: Do you know anything about Gideon Christians’ visa dealings with Chawla?
Mr Mackay: No, I did not know anything, except for what I have read in the leaked emails. I was not aware of any contact between a Mr Chawla and our official Gideon Christians.
Chairperson: What did you learn?
Mr Mackay: I learned through the emails that there was contact between Mr Christians and Mr Chawla on the kinds of engagements we saw this morning from the OUTA presentation.
Mr Figlan: Have you ever communicated with Mr Ashu Chawla or know of any employee under you who communicated with Ashu Chawla?
Mr Mackay: I have never communicated with a Mr Chawla and I got to know of the communications of my officials with regard to Mr Chawla when the emails broke.
Chairperson: Do you know Mr Chawla?
Mr Mackay: No, I do not know Mr Chawla.
Chairperson: You only learned about Mr Chawla through the leaked emails?
Mr Mackay: Yes.
Chairperson: You have never picked up that there is a Mr Chawla facilitating visas for certain people, especially the ANN7 and the Gupta people?
Mr Mackay: I was not aware that there was a Mr Chawla doing all that you are saying.
Chairperson: You spoke about Sahara Computers earlier. Do you know who the CEO of Sahara Computers is?
Mr Mackay: No.
Chairperson: Do you know anyone at the hierarchy at Sahara Computers, e.g. director, CEO, CFO, etc.?
Mr Mackay: I have never met nor spoken to them.
Chairperson: On the visa process, at what point does it come to your attention to know of a request or an issued visa?
Mr Mackay: It would not come to my attention at all, because visas are issued all over the world. I would not know to which individuals they are being issued to. The only permits I am involved with in terms of recommendations and authorisations are permanent residence permits which were brought in because of the abuse. With the amendment of the Act we now have certain permanent resident visas that are authorised by me and the high risk ones are authorised by the Director-General. We have sight of that from the first point of application, it goes through management for quality control and it gets to me where I either issue it or not and I recommend some to the Director-General.
Chairperson: Are you saying that this Chawla, a well known person in the Gupta business empire, becomes a very central person that interacts with your department without your knowledge? He is making sure that a visa is issued within 24 hours and based on what you heard earlier in the morning, what does this tell you? As someone that has served this government for many years, what does this tell you about your department? I really want this comment from you, because we are dealing with something that has caused so much damage. Part of this exercise and the mandate of this inquiry are to look at how these families were naturalised.
Mr Mackay: It tells me a lot and we have learnt a lot from these issues. Firstly, people should not have that kind of access to officials. We have done a lot over time to deal with such particular issues. There are some constraints and the Portfolio Committee is aware of some of the constraints the Department has in terms of resources. There should never be any interaction between clients and officials. We have tried to do that with an interlocuteur and introduced the Visa Facilitation Services. You apply there and when the application comes to DHA, we should not even have a number or any contact point of whose application we are dealing with. There are weaknesses that we should be able to deal with. I can tell you that everybody in the Department receives phone calls asking for assistance on urgent passport applications for example. My number is everywhere on the internet. I think our department in DHA is the only department that has their senior mangers’ contact details on the website so that they can be contacted when there are service delivery issues and we try to assist in that way. The culture of calling anybody in DHA when you need any kind of document should stop and it is something that not only affects the officials, but it also affects everybody out there dealing with the Department. There should be one area of contact and we should be able to manage that. With regard to our missions, it makes it a bit more difficult, because it is out of our immediate management control. It is in countries abroad, but we are trying, with the new e-visa system we are designing, there will be a hub in South Africa where all visa application are going to be dealt with. It will not matter where you apply in the world, it will be adjudicated in South Africa, we will manage the process and tie up some of these instances of corruption we are seeing.
Chairperson: When you facilitate such requests, do you get a donation or a gift?
Mr Mackay: Other than a thank you, no Chairperson.
Chairperson: Have you ever been promised a donation or a gift if you facilitate such a request?
Mr Mackay: No. We do not do what we do for benefits. If someone needs to travel tomorrow and needs their passport today and we can assist in that, we do.
Chairperson: Do find sometimes that official overdo that and end up being captured and corrupted?
Mr Mackay: There is always a danger of that.
Chairperson: Have you experienced it?
Mr Mackay: No, never.
Chairperson: Have you experienced any your officials finding themselves in that situation?
Mr Mackay: Of being involved in corrupt activities?
Mr Mackay: Yes.
Mr Figlan: Since you read the emails, what are you doing? Is there an ongoing investigation to get to the bottom of this?
Chairperson: As you respond, can you also tell us if it was for the first time you learned of the leaked emails today?
Mr Mackay: I knew about it before, because I read about it in the newspapers. It was widely published. Immediately, the DG and myself had a discussion and the DG wrote to the officials involved, asking them to respond to the allegations made in the emails.
Chairperson: Have they responded?
Mr Mackay: Yes they have.
Chairperson: Do you have those responses?
Mr Mackay: Yes we do.
Chairperson: Can you give us the letters that you wrote and the responses by tomorrow morning.
Mr Mackay: I will see that you get it.
Mr Figlan: Were there any Indian nationals within the Gupta associates, which came through with tourism visas, not going back and ended up with work visas or permanent resident visas?
Chairperson: In addition, now that ANN7 has closed down, did all those who were employed go back to their country? Mr Mackay, this exercise is not meant to intimidate you; it is about this country, its people and its citizenship. You are here and you have to swallow your pride. I know how knowledgeable you are on these things. I am finding that civil servants defend their departments to the detriment of the country. Now we have to set up a commission of inquiry via the President dealing with the same issues we are dealing with. The Zondo Commission is dealing with money and here we are dealing with entry into the country. They are interrelated and the Zondo Commission is even asking this Committee to help them with information and we have shared the minutes of the Committee with them. We are still going to see as we move forward if some of these issues that need further investigation, can be taken to the Zondo Commission to deal with, because they have the capacity and the resources. It does not end here so share with us what you know so that we can make a proper recommendation.
Mr Mackay: Firstly, I have no pride to swallow and I think the Committee knows that what they see here is what they get. I am always truthful and I give my views on matters; what I am sharing here with you here is what I know and the knowledge that I have. If there are people that have more knowledge about it than I do in the room, you might ask them about that, but you are asking my knowledge around these matters. You are correct if you say that I have deep insight into our problems and issues with migration and this what you are seeing and investigating now is a symptom of that. These are the issues that we always bring to the Committee were we say that we do not have enough resources. All of these things, I would love to do them, i.e. to go and investigate every intra-company transfer that comes in to see if they are indeed doing everything that they said they are going to do; and if indeed there are projects that they need to do indeed. I would love to be able to go and check that every person that comes in on a visitor’s if they are not doing remunerative work when they said that they are coming in as tourists. We just do not have that. When we do get a tip-off and when we do get some information, we try to investigate that with the immediate resources that we have. The Committee is trying to assist us in dealing with those kinds of challenges. These are the constraints we have as DHA. When we see these things happening; these are the symptoms of it and if we are not going to deal with the real issues in terms of dealing with the capacitating and modernisation of the Department, we are going to continue to have these problems, because there are huge gaps that can’t be managed if you don’t have those things in place. I thought that I would just put that on the table to give perspective as the head of immigration and where I come from on these particular matters. We will investigate these matters and get to the bottom of it. I have put together a team to find out whether there are still ANN7 people here that are on visitor’s visas. With the 2014 change in the Immigration Act and regulations, no one can change either the condition or the status of a visitor’s visa and a medical treatment visa. You would need to leave the country and do that from your home country. You would find people coming in on visitor’s visas and because they cannot change the conditions, they now apply for asylum. Going through the asylum adjudication process, prolongs their stay in the country.
Chairperson: Earlier you said you have not met any of the Gupta brothers. You have never met them?
Mr Mackay: No, I have never met them.
Chairperson: You are not aware of any applications for permanent residency or visa done at Saxonwold?
Mr Mackay: I am not aware of that.
Mr Hoosen: How long does an intra-company, business and an ordinary tourist visa take on average, from the application to the time it being granted?
Mr Mackay: For a tourist visa there is a five day turnaround time; for an intra-company work visa it is four weeks and eight weeks for a work visa.
Mr Hoosen: I have seen quite a number of the emails and my personal view is that I do not think you were involved in all of this. From what I pick up, Mr Ashu Chawla was running his own VFS office and his contacts were Major Kobese and Gideon Christians. We also have some information in some emails where Ashu Chawla has corresponded with the then President and Deputy President’s office. This guy Chawla had everyone under his control to the extent that he could churn out visas in a matter of hours. One example of many in the emails shows that an Indian national approached the consulate office for an intra-company work visa and initially, when he gets to the consulate office, a Mr Mashaba turned him down. After making contact with Chawla, who in turn contacts Major Kobese, within a matter of hours Mr Mashaba writes: ‘Dear Mr Ashu, the matter has been resolved y Major Kobese with an unambiguous and decisive instruction to have the visa issue irrespectively’. That is just one example and there are dozens. Given what I told you and what you know, do you believe and accept that Mr Ashu Chawla, who was the kingpin of the Gupta family, received preferential treatment from your department?
Mr Mackay: If the emails are to be lived; if the emails are authentic, then yes.
Chairperson: Who is VFS?
Mr Mackay: It is a company we had contracted after World Cup. The company does the front end visa and permit application process for us. You will recall we had regional offices at the time where people went to apply where documents often got lost. We centralised the visa application process and the company is called VFS. This is international best practice where countries now use these visa facilitation companies to assist them with visa applications.
Chairperson: Did you advertise for this?
Mr Mackay: Yes, we followed the proper procurement processes.
Chairperson: Who is the owner of this company?
Mr Mackay: It is a listed public company and we can give you that information; it is a public entity.
Chairperson: When is the contract expiring?
Mr Mackay: At the end of this year.
Chairperson: What will then happen after the end of this year?
Mr Mackay: We have to go out and contract again for another service provider.
Chairperson: I recently travelled overseas and I had to go to the embassy in The Hague. The people at the embassy had a problem accessing visa services directly. Do you have the experience currently of embassies finding it difficult or have you taken the visa system entirely from embassies.
Mr Mackay: No, not at all. We have VFS in high volume countries and in all the other countries the visa application is still done through the embassy.
Chairperson: In Netherlands?
Mr Mackay: We do not have a VFS in Netherlands.
Chairperson: Have you been informed of problems they have in that office?
Mr Mackay: No.
Chairperson: Did the Guptas have any say in appointing this VFS?
Mr Mackay: No.
Mr Hoosen: On VFS, I want to refer you to an email. This email was sent to you by an Indian woman thanking you for the meeting she had with you and Minister Gigaba. She copied Ashu Chawla in on the email. This was sent in 2015 after you and the Minister had a meeting with BLS International. They were probably one of the competing companies with VFS. In the same document she reminds you what their capabilities are and clearly there was a meeting between yourself, BLS and the Minister on 24 April 2015. What involvement does Ashu Chawla have in that particular matter? Did he facilitate the meeting? Do you recall the meeting?
Mr Mackay: It was a long time ago and maybe if I can have the email I will be able to respond. If you have this email, you would also have my response.
Mr Hoosen: I do not have your response and you can have a copy of this email. Is it normal for the Minister to be going with you to have a conversation with a possible service provider?
Mr Mackay: A lot of people have ideas around business products and they pitch it to everyone. People ask for meetings and it is only when you come into that meeting that you are confronted with who it is you are dealing with or the product they are trying to sell. We are always very clear that it was not how DHA does its work; there is a process and if you have services to offer you have to follow the procurement processes. There is not one company that I know of in DHA whilst I was there, and in particular in immigration, that did not follow those processes. Everyday people pitch products, but it does not mean that you will give them business, in fact, I cannot offer you business at all. It has to go through the Department.
Mr Hoosen: Is it regular or irregular for Minister Gigaba to be involved in a conversation with a potential service provider to DHA? From what I understand, the political leadership should not have any involvement in procurement or tendering.
Mr Mackay: Maybe you would have to ask the Minister about this, because I am not sure he would have known, because many times we meet with people with the Minister where we only know what is to be discussed when we get into those meetings. I do not think it would have been a meeting called in particular for someone wanting to pitch for us or someone wanting a contract from the Department.
Mr Hoosen: I understand that you do not have the information now, but would appreciate if you come back and let us know who else was at that meeting.
Mr Mackay: I will go check.
Chairperson: When we process our report, we might request you to come speak on this. Do you know Ndifelani Dombo?
Mr Mackay: No.
Chairperson: He was also a contact of Chawla, but we will address this tomorrow.
Mr Mackay was released.
Ms Nkomo: Can we get the directorships of all the companies mentioned.
Chairperson: We will not get that from Home Affairs, it was with the Department of Labour.
Mr Vusi Mkhize, Former Deputy Director-General: Civic Services, DHA
The Chairperson proceeded to put Mr Mkhize under oath.
Mr Figlan: Would there have been any harm to the Gupta family or any South African if the family had waited until December 2017 to reapply for normal naturalisation as per the adjudication committee? If not, why was it necessary to grant early naturalisation?
Mr Mkhize: I am not privy to the circumstances of the family. Section 5(9)(a) empowers the Minister to grant early naturalisation to any applicant who does not comply with the period of ordinary residence as contemplated in section 5(1)(a). This is in regard to the five years you would have spent in South Africa and each and every year not having been out the country for more than 90 days. Anyone who has not met that requirement as set out in the Act has a right to approach the Minister to waiver the laws required. The fact that the Minister had been approached obligated the processing of the application. Consideration was based on the motivations the family advanced and submitted which, among other things were the jobs and the investment in the country.
Mr Figlan: Were the Guptas given different treatment in terms of being given an opportunity to renounce Indian citizenship sequent to getting South African citizenship, unlike other applicants who have renounced their initial citizenship, but are still awaiting the naturalisation ceremony?
Mr Mkhize: The issue of different treatment does not arise in this matter. There is no process in place where applicants for naturalisation are expected to renounce their citizenship from the country of origin, prior or during the process of application. When this Act was being reviewed, one of the key considerations was that you cannot have someone becoming stateless on the assumption naturalisation will be granted. Granting citizenship to a foreigner is the prerogative of the Minister as the authority responsible for that. The Gupta family was therefore not afforded different treatment in that regard. Three family members already qualified on their own. The challenge here was when they applied as a family. By the three I mean Ajay, as well as the two sons. The mother and the wife were the ones not meeting the residence requirements. Both sections 1 and 4 make reference to proof of renunciation of citizenship of the country of origin. These sections are clear on the timeframes. After receiving conditional granting of the approval of naturalisation, you have six months to submit your renunciation.
Mr Figlan: Is there a record of Rajesh Kumar and his family leaving the country between the expiry of his initial work permit on 21 April 1999 and the approval of the conversion to business permit on 29 August 2000?
Mr Mkhize: This can be best addressed by the immigration DDG which he had and I was not there during this term.
Mr Figlan: Does DHA have an official record of Atul and Rajesh’s families renouncing their Indian citizenship? If so, can this be forwarded? If not, why not? Is there a requirement that naturalisation applicants are informed of the need to renounce citizenship of their relevant countries?
Chairperson: In our possession now, the only information shared with us was on the late application for early naturalisation. We know India does not allow dual citizenship and this Committee cannot confirm if these people are now citizens, because we do not have the renunciation of their citizenship. We wrote to the Indian embassy requesting this information. To date, we still do not have the information, but I have discovered that there had been earlier request to the Indian embassy to confirm the renunciation of Ajay. We must know whether the people we are dealing with are full South Africans. I looked at the engagement between the Zondo Commission and the Gupta brothers and I asked myself if these are South African citizens and they are not in exile and they have taken an oath of allegiance to the Constitution and the laws of this country, what makes them these super South Africans that cannot abide by the rules and the Constitution of the Republic. By the end of this inquiry we must know what the status of the Gupta brothers and their families are.
Mr Mkhize: According to our records Atul Gupta acquired South African citizenship in 2002; Rajesh acquired in 2006 and we do have the declarations of allegiance of both that can be provided to the Committee.
Chairperson: Including their families?
Mr Mkhize: The declaration I have here reads: I, Atul Kumar Gupta, do hereby solemnly declare; and it was signed on 30 October 2002 with witnesses present. Rajesh Kumar did exactly the same.
Chairperson: Can you read exactly what it says?
Mr Mkhize: I, Atul Kumar Gupta, do hereby solemnly declare that I will be loyal to the Republic of South Africa; promote all that will advance it and oppose all that may harm it; uphold and respect its Constitution, and commit myself to the furtherance of the ideals and principles contained therein.
Chairperson: Can you also read exactly what Rajesh committed himself to in the declaration?
Mr Mkhize: I, Rajesh Kumar Gupta, do hereby solemnly declare that I will be loyal to the Republic of South Africa; promote all that will advance it and oppose all that may harm it; uphold and respect its Constitution, and commit myself to the furtherance of the ideals and principles contained therein.
Chairperson: I take it the sons are still young, but do they do the same or is it only the husband and the wife?
Mr Mkhize: Under age people do not do it.
Chairperson: You don’t have anything on the wife.
Mr Mkhize: It will be difficult for me and I only have these records.
Chairperson: We have to ask someone to a full detail. They did submit and we will check who we have.
Mr Figlan: What was the relationship between yourself, Mr Christians and Major Kobese in terms of the chain of command? Was there a personal relationship between either you, Mr Christians, Mr Kobese, Minister Gigaba and Mr Chawla?
Mr Mkhize: I did not have contact with Mr Christians. In fact, we are meeting today here for the first time. I know Mr Kobese; I have worked in the department and I know him quite well on a professional level; the same with Minister Gigaba. There is nothing personal about our relationship. I do not know Mr Chawla.
Mr Figlan: Who was the direct line manager or immediate superior of Mr Christians? Who did he report to? If it is you, how could you not have been aware what he was doing?
Mr Mkhize: As I have indicated earlier, I have no line of command with Mr Christians. I want to finish my earlier response on Ajay and Rajesh. At the times they acquired citizenship; the law did not require renunciation and therefore would not have such a record of renunciation. This came about in 2010 with the new Act captured under section 5(1)(h). It only became a requirement in January 2013 after the regulations came into effect.
Chairperson: Are you saying that South African law did not have a problem with people having dual citizenships? India does not allow dual citizenship. Are you saying its India’s responsibility to deal with its own citizens?
Mr Mkhize: The four that were part and parcel of Ajay Gupta; the High Commissioner of India did respond on.
The Chairperson: We know and that is why it is so surprising that there has been no response. I think the ambassador has been made aware. We will look at our options to guide the Committee.
Mr Figlan: Have you taken any trip to 1) Dubai; 2) to any other place where he trip was paid by anyone other than yourself?
Mr Mkhize: No, I have not been to Dubai and I have not been on a trip paid by somebody else.
Chairperson: Never invited to any event?
Mr Mkhize: No.
Mr Hoosen: What happens in a situation where somebody does not provide proof of renunciation in six months?
Mr Mkhize: Without renunciation you cannot be naturalised.
Mr Hoosen: Can you get the certificate back where you said there was proof of renunciation, because I want to refer to it. The four members of the family were given naturalisationon 30 May 2015. If you add six months to that it takes you to 30 October 2015. If you look at this letter from the High Commissioner and the date it was produced, it is dated 20 July 2017 and that is two years later. They did not qualify to provide proof of renunciation. There is a second problem with that letter from the High Commissioner. The regulations say that that letter must indicate the date on which the renounced their citizenship, but there is no date on the letter. Do you believe that this family should have qualified for naturalisation bearing in mind that you commented that they did not get any preferential treatment? The evidence actually points to the contrary.
Mr Mkhize: The Department requested confirmation and we need to get the original.
Mr Hoosen: I disagree with you. The request you put through was dated 23 June 2017, which was three days before the DG came here. Unless you can produce the proof of the original renunciation, which I do not think you have. When the DG was here he said we would have to go and check and that was in 2017. He has not come back and nobody at Home Affairs can prove the actual date these guys renounced their Indian citizenship. The only document that shows proof is the one you got which proves two years later which is not in line with our regulations. Are you satisfied that you covered all the regulations before granting them citizenship? The evidence I have in front of me shows to the contrary.
Chairperson: Let’s go back to the letter from the High Commissioner again. Who signed this letter? It only bears the stamp of the International Relations and the High Commissioner stamp with the High Commissioner letterhead. Is it the High Commissioner? Is it the director for South and Central Asia? Where is the original letter? The first part of the letter has the High Commissioner of India and then it goes down to the International Relations Department. The bottom line talks of the Department of Internal Relations and Cooperation of the Republic, but there is nothing other than the stamp here. If you don’t know, tell us, because we will be dealing with the leadership that can speak with authority on this matter.
Mr Mkhize: That would be the best option. I cannot confirm whether the person who signed this letter is the High Commissioner.
Mr Hoosen: The only reason you will ask the High Commissioner to verify something is because you yourself do not have it. You are going to go back and look for something that does not exist. There is no proof of renunciation. I raised this question with Apleni when he was here and he said he will go and check. Tomorrow when he is here we will raise it with him, but I am raising it with you, because if you as the head of civic services don’t have it, no one will have it. The dates are very clear and I will raise this with Apleni tomorrow. We do not have the proof of renunciation received from the Indian High Commissioner confirming these people have terminated their citizenship before 30 October 2015. If that is true they should have never qualified for early naturalisation in the first place. It means that your department made a mistake and Minister Gigaba made a mistake, because he relied on your mistake.
Chairperson: This is one of the key questions that must be answered when we meet with the accounting authorities tomorrow. We have written a formal letter to the High Commissioner requesting this information and our target was that by today, when we started this inquiry, that information must available. We are not getting cooperation from the High Commissioner of India and I do not have confidence in the letter that is before us. We will investigate that letter properly. If it is found to be a fraudulent letter, those that presented the fraud to Parliament would have to take responsibility for that.
Mr Hoosen: Give Mr Mkhize the document with all the early naturalised citizens. There are three pages to that document marked ‘S’, ‘SS’ and ‘SSS’. I want to talk to ‘SS’. Look at the bottom of the page at 11.3, 11.2 and 11.1 – these three applications to conclusion took about two years. If you look at 10.1 and 10.2 – those averaged three years. If you look at the Gupta family, all four of them got it done in nine months. There is no other person who applied for early naturalisation in the history of our country that got it done so quickly. On that basis, do you agree that the Gupta family received preferential treatment?
Mr Mkhize: This is inaccurate – there are other persons who have received early naturalisation in lesser periods than the Guptas and we can provide that information. We must note that the period in question here was before January 2013 when the Act came into effect. These processes were people dealt with mainly at local level. It stopped in 2010 when we issued a circular and after that a centralised adjudication process started and in 2015 we effectively appointed the committees. In relation to the process before that, people would complain and we would not even know who applied, because the process was being done at a regional level. Despite all other issues that must be raised around the application of the Guptas, there was a rejection of that application. The issue of naturalisation came later, after the rejection. If there was favouritism, our staff might have undermined our processes, but they did not; they rejected until they applied using section 9.
Chairperson: What led to the rejection and them making an appeal and what happened in that process?
Mr Mkhize: The rejection happened when the applications of the individual Gupta families were being processed. In terms of our new law, there is a very specific clause that deals with the issue of five years ordinary residence and during that period you can only be out of the country for 90 days each year. These days are not accumulative for every year. The rejection basically says that you have two people, the mother and the wife, who did not meet the ordinary residence period requirement. They applied as a family and were rejected despite Ajay and the two sons meeting the requirement. Procedurally, the application must be lodged at a local office and gets couriered to head office.
Chairperson: Be specific to this family, because there is a belief that this application was done at Saxonwold.
Mr Mkhize: I ask that Mr Skhikane provide that breakdown. All applications must have an office stamp and he will be able to provide the details for each of them.
Chairperson: I want the office, date, and the official that received this information, the official that processed the application, and the receipt of the courier or company that couriered this information to head office tomorrow.
Ms Raphuti: With your knowledge, if a family applied for early naturalisation that consisted of a mother (born in 1945) with a daughter in law, and two grandchildren – do you ask where the father (grandfather) is?
Ms Kenye: According to legal processes, if one member’s application for naturalisation is declined, none of the members can be granted naturalisation. How was the Guptas’ application successful after Ajay did not renounce his citizenship? Why do the two sons have different surnames (Singhala)?
Ms Nkomo: What were the reasons given by the adjudication committee for granting early naturalisation to the family? What happens in a case where you found people obtained papers illegally?
Ms Mkhaliphi: In your opening remarks you said you are not privy to the circumstances of the family and cannot offer a view. What was your role as the DDG responsible for civic matters? The record of the parliamentary meeting dated 27 June reflect the DDG explaining processes on what transpired with the early naturalisation of the Guptas. He explained the processes followed by the Minister after the Minister receives an appeal and I quote: “A Minister is advised by his or her lieutenant which in this case is the DDG”. He further said that: “From Mr Sikakane it came to Mr Ramashia, who is sitting here next to me and from here it went to Mr Mkhize”. I am worried if you are saying you are not privy to the information, because the DG specifically mentioned your name. You also said that the Gupta family was not treated differently and that the family met substantive requirements for naturalisation. What do you mean by that? Is there any submission you wrote to the Minister expecting him or her to reject the application? Has the Department ever experienced a whole family applying for naturlisation except the Guptas? If yes, which family?
Ms Dambuza: I want to refer you to the follow-up letter, by an official who has not identified himself and it is not dated. It talks to the conditional approval of the family’s citizenships and requests proof of renunciation within six months. It seems the family was already stateless, because the approval was ‘conditional’. Do you know about the DRC family who applied and that family met all the requirements, but naturalisation was not approved? That family even remained stateless until they went to court. Are you familiar with his case? The letter of appeal by Mr Chawla to the Minister only mentions two people, the mother and the wife, but the recommendations by the officials to the Minister include these people as if they have applied as a family. They have not and that was why Ajay refused to renounce, because he was not part of the original application. I am surprised that the regulations did not talk to the people who were naturalised prior to the Amendment of the Act, because what is the status of those people?
Chairperson: Chawla wrote the letter to the Minister talking about the investments and KFC and the Minister should talk to this letter.
Ms Dambuza: I would like Mr Mkhize to confirm that this letter did not reach his desk, because you might address it to the Minister, but it goes through the Department.
Chairperson: The letter would then be referred to Apleni and Mkhize, because they made the recommendations. Mr Mkhize you said you have never heard of or met Mr Chawla? What does the law say about the appeal?
Ms Dambuza: Have you ever come across the correspondence written by Ashu Chawla in January 2016 to Thamsanqa Msomi and it reads: “I am reaching out to you for your assistance. I am dealing with a sensitive immigration matter where an immigration officer at OR Tambo who clearly is not trained properly to discharge his duties, refused a business woman who is my client entry into South Africa on incorrect grounds. Under 5(8) of the Immigration Act, the Minister must on written request review the decision of the immigration officer. We have made this request and the Minister has failed to respond with the result at my client’s embassy, which is to intervene on her behalf. If you are able to, may you share Minister Malusi Gigaba or his secretary’s direct telephone number with me so that I can discuss this with him and avoid making applications to the High Court where he will be painted in a negative light. I am indebted to you for any help you are able to extend’. This letter is not directed to you Mr Mkhize, but you were the head of civic services. Did you come across correspondence like this and if you did, what did you do?
Mr Kekana: Most of you do not want to assist us and instead you are here to frustrate us. Now we know what kind of people we are dealing with. When the Guptas said ‘we have invested in South Africa’, you have never checked? The MEC went against everything you have approved. It has been my appeal to just tell us the truth so we can deal with this issue and forget about it. Family businesses are not closed corporations. If you chose to naturalise these people it means you have been meeting with these people in certain corners and we don’t know how. The DG has accepted that it was never verified and only the R25 million has been verified at SARS and DTI. In the group of DDGs that advise the Minister to approve these things, what was the main reason given for approval?
Mr Gumede: In terms of section 5(9)(a), since its promulgation, how many applications had been declared exceptional and therefore had to be considered by the Minister? Of those, how many succeeded and how many failed? Was the monetary investments and the employment of 7 000 people claimed by the family verified at that time in terms of validating the exceptionality of this case?
Mr Mkhize: According to the records, Ajay applied separately. Thereafter, the sons also were applied for in November 2013, and thereafter the mother and the wife also applied separately. When that happened the officials took the applications as one for a family. The application was processed as a family, because Ajay would have qualified without being combined with the family. I must confirm again that I do not know Chawla. I got the submission for naturalisation after the rejection of the family application. This came to my attention, because it was an early naturalisation request that needed to go to the Minister. The submission advanced reasons, clearly stating that it was obtained from the letter by Chawla. Section 2.8 of the submission advanced the reasons and its says: “Due to the fact that Mr Gupta and family are contributing to the economy of South Africa their circumstances can be regarded as exceptional in the context of section 5(9) of the Act. They can therefore be granted naturalisation”. My take is Chawla’s letter came as an email to the official, Ndifelani Dombo.
Chairperson: Who is Dombo?
Mr Mkhize: He serves in the citizenship section. When they receive these things, they will compile a submission and submit to us. We will look at it and in this case the claimed investment of R25 million and 7 000 had gravity. I made a submission that I did not verify, because it was not part of our processes to verify. We only verify, as part of the naturalisation, whether people had authentic permanent residence. The second area that was non-negotiable is the confirmation by the South African Police Services (SAPS) that this person as not a criminal. SARS verified the registered companies and their tax compliance was verified. I found the letters from the High Commissioner, dated 22 September 2015, signed by the Vice Consulate-General, still within the six months and these letters say: ‘To whomever it may concern: Mrs Angoori Gupta, holder of Indian passport number (number), has applied for South African citizenship. We have no objection as long as she renounces her Indian citizenship by surrendering her passport after acquiring South African citizenship’. These letters were issued for all four family members.
Chairperson: What we want is the renunciation letter that says these people have now renounced their Indian citizenship. If you compare the previous letter with these letters, you will see the difference. The previous letter is not signed, has no contact details, the stamp is different, etc and it will be verified.
Mr Mkhize: I do not know where Ajay’s father is and officials did not ask the question of where the father is. I do not if he is still alive or not. I do not know why the sons have different surnames and it might be a part of the Indian culture – I am not an authority in that area. Chapter 6 deals with penalties for misrepresentation and your can citizenship can be revoked. On my role; as I have indicated, once an application is received it is attended to by officials. It is then adjudicated by the committee chaired by the Chief Director and thereafter a submission is made to myself and I will look at the reasons advanced and based on those reasons I would either support or not support and forward to the DG for consideration. Mr Figlan asked what harm the family would suffer and I was not privy to the circumstances of the family other than what they provided on their application. There have been a rejection of naturalisation, but I would have to find the case and I cannot recollect right now. I am not aware of the DRC family where the matter was finalised in court. On the substantive reasons, there are eight elements the Act required and in this case section 5(1)(c) was the only problem and it relates to the five year period. In terms of how the new Act impacted prior cases, all old cases were finalised in line with the old Act, but all new applicants had to be adjudicated in line with the new Act. We could not apply the new requirements to old applications. I have not seen the correspondence referred to by Ms Dambuza and it was an immigration matter as indicated. I will take a look at the letter, but I do not see why I would have been approached on an immigration matter. I respect the comments made by Honourable Kekana, but our objectives for this sittings are the same. On verification, the Department of Labour was approached and they reported more than double the count of people employed (16 000) by the registered companies. We can provide a breakdown of the names of people that were naturalised in shorter periods than the Guptas. These started from two days.
Chairperson: Someone can apply for naturalisation and be approved in two days? Share the name of the person.
Mr Mkhize: Ms Valerie Mashela (spelling not verified) and this was for humanitarian reasons.
Chairperson: You said these applications were submitted separately. So Ajay Gupta went to apply for naturalisation, but then refused to renounce his Indian citizenship. The wife, the sons and then the mother went separately. Is this what happened?
Mr Mkhize: Yes.
Chairperson: So it is no longer a family application?
Mr Mkhize: As I said, the officials processed it as a family application.
Chairperson: All of them applied in Pretoria at the same office?
Mr Mkhize: These were normal applications, not for early naturalisation, submitted at different times.
Chairperson: Give us the date of the first application?
Mr Mkhize: Ajay applied in March 2013; the sons in November 2013; and the mother and the wife in July 2014.
Chairperson: How did it happen that an application that happened in March gets mixed up with an application in November? Was there an arrangement to wait for the applications? We know that Ajay and the sons qualify, but the mother and the wife did not.
Mr Mkhize: Our systems are inefficient.
Chairperson: This is why we believe there was some sort of engagement between yourself and Chawla and that is why Chawla makes the appeal.
Mr Hoosen: This information takes us back more than a year. Every single document of the family stated they applied as a family. The Minister has said it, the Deputy Minister has said it, and Apleni said it. This is the first time someone is saying these were individual applications. Mr Mkhize has been very upfront with us, but every time they dig a deeper hole for themselves. If they applied individually, how do you give the mother citizenship on the strength of Ajay Gupta’s investments? When I raised this before the Department replied that they applied as a family. Now that you are unable to prove that you change the story and you leave us with more questions than answers. Can you just confirm that those last documents you showed are not proof of renunciation?
Chairperson: The adjudication committee said ‘Mr Gupta and family submitted application for naturalisation on 18 March 2013’. This is according to the Department and signed by Mr Mkhize, Mr Apleni and the Minister. Today we are told it is the system.
Ms Dambuza: The Department of Labour Mr Mkhize is talking about, is information given after we requested it. That information is not answering the question, because we wanted to know if the 7 000 was verified at the point those approvals were made.
Ms Kenye: Are these Ajay’s two sons, because there is a letter that also talks about Atul Gupta’s two sons?
Chairperson: On these different surnames by the sons, how did you link these surnames to the Gupta surname?
Ms Nkomo: There is basically nothing you have agreed to. Noting everything that been found in this file of ours, and the concerns raised, can you honestly give your stance on what we are trying to do here?
Mr Hoosen: I want to refer you to annexure ‘L’ that deals with conditional declaration. This has not been answered for a long time. That document is not dated and Mr Apleni tried to explain and said he will find out and come back, but we never heard back from him. It is significant, because in the regulations it says very clearly that the certificate of renunciation must be filed within six months of the date of this document. So if you do not know what the date of this document is you cannot calculate when the deadline for the proof of renunciation is. Can you come back and provide us with the original copy of the conditional declaration letter tomorrow? Can you also bring us the information of the people who were naturalised early in shorter periods than the Gupta family tomorrow?
Ms Raphuti: Are these Ajay or Atul’s children? What proof did they present to show these children belonged to them?
Mr Mkhize: I want to clarify that I was not referring to automated systems. This came at a time the Department had just moved to the new system and there were a lot of backlogs. The inefficiency of the system was a problem and there were no applications put aside waiting for others. The applications were already on the system and officials treated it as one family and by the time the submission is made, it is made on the basis that this is a family.
Chairperson: So Chawla also understands that you have packaged this as a family, because when he writes to the Minister he is speaking about the family?
Mr Mkhize: I don’t know what information Chawla had. I am not an expert in Indian culture and I don’t know how the officials dealing with this process and combined the family members, because it was always written as sons.
Chairperson: Our capacity will tap into the issue of the sons.
Mr Mkhize was released.
Chairperson: Throughout our engagement since last year no one has ever spoken about separate applications. Sikakane is the one who deals with finalisation of naturalisation. We have noted quite a few interesting developments. There is no sitting tomorrow in Parliament and we have the whole day to finish. These individuals are carrying South African documentation and we still don’t know heir statuses. All the undated documentation must be provided tomorrow.
The meeting adjourned.