The Minister said this when he briefed the media at the department’s Cape Town offices on Tuesday.
“We have just returned from the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs which after three sessions to discuss the issue of the naturalisation, the committee has concluded the matter and I am quite happy that the matter has now been concluded with the committee where the department handed the documents first to provide a technical explanation of the process that was followed until that process was finalised today. We provided a political explanation which the committee required from us,” he said.
This comes after media reports that some members of the Gupta family had been unduly granted the South African citizenship by the department.
Briefing journalists, the Minister said the matter involved five people belonging to the Ajay Gupta family who applied for naturalisation in March 2013.
The Minister said that some of them had received permanent residence in 2003 while two of them received it in 2008.
“Miss Angul Gupta, who had applied for permanent residency and attained it in 2003 and applied for naturalisation in 2013.
“By law, she would have qualified for naturalisation but she then contravened the immigration act by being out of the country for longer than 90 days during this period and therefore her application was rejected.
“Mr Ajay Gupta himself had got permanent residential permit in 2008 and applied for naturalisation in 2013.
“Legally, he qualified for naturalisation but his application was rejected because these five people applied as a family, they did not apply as individuals. They applied as a family and therefore, one of the members did not qualify, all of them would therefore not qualify. The entire family application would then be rejected,” the Minister said.
He also said that Ajay’s wife, Shivani Gupta, got permanent residency in 2012 and applied for naturalisation in 2013 and this was rejected because she had not completed five years.
Ajay’s sons Kamal Singhala and Surya Singhala got permanent residency in 2008.
They applied for naturalisation in 2013 – both of them had complied with all the regulations and the law but their application was rejected on the basis that the entire family was not qualified.
“It is therefore important to establish the facts in this regard, the first being that they applied as a family and not as individuals so if one family member was rejected, the rest would be rejected.
“Secondly that out of the five, four qualified to apply for naturalisation. They had been in the country for long enough but out of the four that qualified, one was disqualified on the basis that during her stay, she then left country for 90 days.”
The Minister said the affected members of the Gupta family then appealed the decision in accordance with the law and upon appeal, the department received further documentation from them.
“We looked at a number of documents – the quantum of their investments into the country, the quantum of the people that are employed.
“In their application, they indicated that they were employing more than 7000 people. When we verified their documents, we found that they were employing close to 15 000 people. The company that they had registered was a JSE-listed company and in addition, they had a number of other philanthropic projects that they were involved in.
“…when we received the letter of appeal, we forwarded it as it was to the department and the department set up a panel of members that reviewed the appeal and decided to overturn its initial decision.”
The Minister also said in the case of Ajay Gupta, his application for naturalisation was, upon appeal, rejected again because he refused to renounce his Indian citizenship.
“There has been an argument that the decision to favour this fellow by expediting their application, their appeal and maliciously granting them South African citizenship. We need to clarify that as we did with the portfolio committee. Their application was done in 2013, it was rejected in 2014. They appealed, we considered new facts through an independent panel established in the department based on the documents submitted. The decision was overturned.
“But secondly, they were asked to renounce their citizenship of the country of their origin, at which point Mr Ajay Gupta declined renouncing his Indian citizenship and therefore Mr Ajay Gupta is not a South African citizen. He is a permanent residence permit holder which he received in 2008 but he is not a South African citizen.”