06/03/2018 15:37 SAST | Updated 06/03/2018 16:40 SAST

Are The Guptas South African Citizens?

"Ajay and Atul were not South African citizens," Malusi Gigaba has told a parliamentary committee.

PA Archive/PA Images
Minister of Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba, who previously held the same post when certain members of the Gupta family allegedly had their South African citizenship fast-tracked. Now he claims that they were never granted citizenship at all.

Malusi Gigaba now claims that Ajay and Atul Gupta were never South African citizens.

The Minister of Home Affairs appeared before the parliamentary committee investigating state capture on Tuesday to explain how the Guptas' citizenship was allegedly fast-tracked in 2016, but instead claimed that the process was never completed.

This contradicts earlier statements made by Gigaba last year while serving as the finance minister that, in his earlier tenure at home affairs, members of the Gupta family were awarded South African citizenship in 2016 because of their "contribution to the South African economy".

Though Gigaba answered the question regarding the Guptas' citizenship, he left the question of whether Ajay can be extradited because of his "fugitive" classification unanswered .

Home Affairs

Home Affairs director-general Mkuseli Apleni said the members of the family who applied for naturalisation did not wish to renounce their Indian citizenship, and therefore the initial application was rejected.

"Neither the minister, nor the director-general, nor the staff ever met with the Guptas to discuss their naturalisation," Gigaba said. Apleni went on to explain that extradition treaties were dealt with by correctional services and the department of international relations and cooperation.

There is now some confusion as to their true status, as earlier declarations had classified the Guptas as SA citizens – and now they apparently aren't. Those seeking to extradite the Guptas will need to distinguish between permanent residency vs South African citizenship, in order to determine just how to get the brothers back into the country.

Gallo Images via Getty Images

Here's a short explanation on how to obtain citizenship in South Africa. There are three steps:

Temporary visa/residence (Guptas 1995): This is a permit issued to all foreigners with general qualifications intending to work in South Africa. If you've had temporary residency for five years, and were employed throughout this time, you could be eligible for permanent South African residency.

Permanent residence (Guptas 2008): This is a permit issued to foreigners who wish to reside permanently in South Africa. They are able to live in South Africa, but are still considered foreigners. At this stage, the resident has every right that a South African citizen has, apart from the right to vote.

Emphasis is placed on immigrants who are in a position to make a meaningful contribution towards broadening the economic base of South Africa, which links back to Gigaba's comments.

South African citizenship (Guptas 2013): Once permanent residency has been obtained, the resident is permitted to apply for South African citizenship. There are, however, a few additional requirements of the resident who wishes to become a local citizen. Those applying must be:

  • Of good and sound character;
  • Proficient in one of South Africa's 11 official languages; and
  • Have adequate knowledge of the duties and responsibilities of a South African citizen.