Home Affairs Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize and her predecessor, Malusi Gigaba, were no-shows at Tuesday morning’s meeting of parliament’s oversight committee on home affairs to explain how the Gupta family was granted early citizenship.
Committee chairperson Lemias Mashile told MPs Mkhize and Gigaba were abroad, which angered most opposition MPs, who called for the ministers to be subpoenaed before parliament.
This is not the first time the ministers have drawn the ire of parliamentarians, as last Tuesday, they failed to pitch up to brief MPs on the department’s naturalisation process.
DA MP John Steenhuisen decried the absence of the ministers despite a full delegation of home affairs officials, led by director-general Mkuseli Apleni, being present to brief the committee.
Steenhuisen said it would have been problematic and unfair for Apleni and his team to answer questions on the Guptas’ citizenship, as it was Gigaba, now finance minister, and Mkhize who could answer the questions.
“I really think if this committee is doing its job correctly, it would pass a motion or resolution expressing its complete dissatisfaction with the ministers’ absence, and would in fact embark on a process to subpoena the ministers, which I think should have happened last week, anyway,” Steenhuisen said.
ANC MP Donald Gumede said though he was not opposed to having the ministers summoned to parliament, the meeting was a preliminary hearing on the Guptas’ citizenship, and called on the DA to respect Cabinet.
“Let us remember it is important for the three arms of government to respect each other. We have to respect the Cabinet and the judiciary; if we do not respect each other, I don’t think we are going to have a successful country – a country that is stable. So for purposes of stability, I would urge the DA to respect our Cabinet,” Gumede said.
Earlier this month, leaked documents by the EFF revealed that when Gigaba was the home affairs minister, he waived certain legal requirements to grant the Guptas early naturalisation in 2015, despite an official from the department rejecting the family’s application.
The briefing by the department is currently under way.