A former South African minister was on Monday cleared of multiple allegations that he abused his power while granting early naturalisation to members of the controversial Indian-origin Gupta family.
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane found that former Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba breached the executive ethics code by failing to table names in Parliament of persons who were granted citizenship under exceptional circumstances within the provisions of the South African Citizenship Act.
The Public Protector, however, said that the minister did not abuse his power while approving early naturalisation to the Gupta family.
"I welcome the key finding of the Public Protector's report which clears me of the baseless allegations which were, partly, relied upon to hound me out of Cabinet, in November 2018. I shall not be commenting on the rest of this report until I have consulted with my lawyers," Gigaba,49, tweeted.
Gigaba has been accused at the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, set up by President Cyril Ramaphosa, of having received large sums of money from the Guptas during several visits to their palatial former home in Johannesburg.
Gigaba granted the citizenship to Ajay Gupta and other members of the family after recommendations from senior members of his department.
Mkhwebane has recommended that appropriate action be instituted against four of these senior officials, who were involved in the naturalisation of the Gupta family, for their failure to exercise due diligence.
They had recommended to Gigaba that the naturalisation be granted because of the family''s business investments, as well as the large number of jobs they had created for South Africans, among other factors.
"It was established that the verification process ... revealed material misrepresentations and inaccuracies with the information contained in the motivation, relied upon by the former minister, in approving and granting the certificates for naturalisation to Mr Ajay Gupta and family," the Public Protector said in her report.
Originally from Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh, the Gupta family amassed a fortune in IT, media and mining industries over the past two decades in South Africa, allegedly through their closeness to former president Jacob Zuma, who himself is facing corruption charges.
The bulk of Guptas'' assets in South Africa are expected to be auctioned off to repay creditors as the brothers had fled to Dubai.
The three Gupta brothers - Ajay, Atul and Rajesh - and their families went into self-exile in Dubai after allegations surfaced of their companies illegally siphoning billions of rands from South African parastatal companies through their alleged closeness to former President Zuma.
The South African government has initiated extradition processes for them to return to face a wide range of charges related to alleged corruption after a number of people came forward at the Zondo Commission.
The South African Parliament recommended in March 2019 that the citizenship granted to the Guptas be revoked.
The Public Protector also found that Gigaba misrepresented facts after he said at a media conference in March 2016 that Atul was not a South African citizen. Gigaba corrected this at another media briefing the very next day.
Since Gigaba had resigned from his position in November 2018, Mkhwebane said there would be no purpose in seeking remedial action against him.