Former home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba did nothing wrong in granting the Gupta family South African citizenship, his successor Hlengiwe Mkhize said on Wednesday.
“I have looked at all the documentation and I thought if I was in similar position I would have considered the request in a favourable manner,” Mkhize said.
There was thus no need to investigate the matter further.
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) released two letters on Monday that it claimed showed that Gigaba, who is now finance minister, irregularly granted the Gupta family citizenship.
The first letter, signed by a home affairs official in January 2015, states that the family’s application has been rejected as they have not complied with the law. They are told they can apply again in December, provided they have not spent more than 90 days a year outside the country in the past five years.
However, in May, Gigaba wrote to the family approving their citizenship.
Mkhize said Gigaba followed the letter of the law. She said in her three months in office she had received numerous complaints from applicants. Front-line officials were to blame and needed training as they had to implement complex legislation and policies, she said.
The Gupta family qualified for citizenship as they had lived in South Africa for more than five years and government gave priority for naturalisation to investors and those bringing in skills.
She said the official only rejected their application because they had left the country on business. As a minister she would have looked at this and used her discretion to help.
"I don’t think in all fairness we can start questioning, unless we amend the legislation and say people should not appeal to minister,” Mkhize said.
The EFF said it would go to court to challenge the decision to grant the family citizenship.
Mkhize said calls to have their citizenship reviewed, following revelations in the emails leaked from the family, would have to consider the law.
The emails reveal that the family allegedly interfered with the running of government and state-owned enterprises.
“If we were to make a decision you have to be legal, have the facts, interpret those and apply relevant sections of policies and legislation," Mkhize said.