South Africa

TravelGate 2.0: Did Guptas benefit from visa applications too?

By Marianne Thamm 24 April 2016

On Friday, Democratic Alliance Shadow Minister of Home Affairs, Haniff Hoosen, dropped a bombshell during the Home Affairs budget debate in Parliament, saying that a South African company, Islandsite Investments, with Duduzane Zuma and Rajesh Gupta as two of its directors, is linked to global visa application service company VFS Global, raking in a pretty fortune from each visa processed. On Sunday, Home Affairs DG, Mkuseli Apleni, was due to hold a media briefing on the allegations but suddenly postponed it at the last minute. By MARIANNE THAMM.

Toss a stone nowadays and a Gupta and/or a Zuma seems to appear from behind every bush. The latest rather large rock was hurled on Friday when Haniff Hoosen disclosed that the DA had investigated a Home Affairs contract with VFS Global and had found that a local company, Islandsite Investments, with Duduzane Zuma and Rajesh Gupta as two of its directors, benefitted from every visa application made to travel in South Africa.

The deal with VFS was signed in 2011 when Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was the Minister of Home Affairs. Dlamini-Zuma was appointed to the Ministry in 2009 by her former husband Jacob Zuma after he became the president of the country. (Duduzane’s mother was Kate Mantsho, Zuma’s third wife.)

Hoosen said that the contract with VFS had led to the loss of thousands of jobs as local immigration practitioners had been forced to close down. Most of these, he added, were small businesses. Hoosen said he had written to the department a year ago requesting a copy of the contract but that his request had been denied.

The party had then filed a PAIA application and “after all the effort and several requests later, the department still refuses to release the details of that contract. The question therefore is what is there to hide? Why is the department refusing to release the contract with VFS?”

The real reason the department was keeping the contract under lock and key, said Hoosen, was because while travellers made payments to VFS, it was Islandsite Investments that issued the receipts for these.

According to their website, there are VFS Offices in 123 countries in the world. On the face of it, it all looks very legitimate. But when a traveller makes a payment to VFS, a receipt is issued, and that receipt is in the name of a company called Islandsite Investments. And the directors of that company are two very famous people. Duduzane Zuma and Rajesh Gupta. Here is the evidence Honourable Minister. I will gladly let you have a copy of the receipt and proof of the names of the directors. I don’t think you will ask for these documents because you probably already know,” Hoosen said.

Accordingly, said Hoosen, the tourism industry in South Africa had been captured as millions of people who travel to the country “are paying the Guptas and the Zumas even before they arrive here. These crooks are not only fleecing South Africans, they have now upgraded their corrupt operations and will now be raking in billions of rand from foreigners who travel here.”

Also, in October 2014, the new Minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba, had announced that permits for approximately 250,000 documented Zimbabwean citizens who were in South Africa were to be cancelled and a new special permit was to be created for this category.

In order for them to remain in the country, they had to apply for this new permit. And once again, VFS was the company that issued those permits and they scored about R300-million from that deal. You have to wonder, what was the reason for creating a new permit, when these people were already in possession of a permit in the first place. Well, join the dots and the picture becomes clearer. The minister makes new regulations for new permits, VFS rakes in the cash, the Guptas and the Zumas laugh their way to the bank.”

And it gets worse, said Hoosen. Gigaba had also recently announced another new permit, this time for citizens of Lesotho who, in order to remain in South Africa, legally or illegally, had to obtain the new Lesotho Special Permit.

There is an estimate of 400,000 Lesotho citizens in the country and even more are likely to move to SA now that there is a four-year permit available for them to live here. Soon there will be nobody left in Lesotho and guess who will be processing those applications and how many more millions – the Guptas will be scoring.”

Hoosen asked Gigaba on Friday what his role was in securing this deal for VFS and that he could not deny that he knew nothing of it.

The billions that the Guptas and Zumas are earning from this deal could have been used to fund the shortfall of this department’s budget quite easily and possibly more. Given the economic conditions that we find ourselves in, the home affairs budget has been slashed by R200-million. So the people of our country still suffer, while the Zumas and Guptas are laughing their way to the bank.”

The DA was now calling for a full investigation into how the tender with VFS had been awarded and what role Gigaba might have played in it.

Gigaba responded that Hoosen was making “misleading and wild” allegations and that he [Hoosen] had never contacted him with regard to the VFS contract. Gigaba said he did not take the allegations lightly and that Hoosen would not be able to prove his allegations. Instead of making arguments about policy, as was required during the budget debate, Gigaba said the DA had abused parliamentary process in making these fresh allegations.

It is expected that Home Affairs DG Mkuseli Apleni will address the allegations in a briefing later this week. DM


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