President Jacob Zuma’s sacking of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan has been explained by many in light of the notion that the national Treasury stood in the way of Zuma’s pet projects. Some of these featured Zuma’s friends, the Guptas, who appear to have waged their own campaign against Treasury. Gordhan’s replacement was Gigaba, who inevitably stands under a cloud of suspicion. Thanks to a leaked trove of data from the heart of the Gupta empire, the cloud is growing heavier. By AMABHUNGANE and SCORPIO.
The #GuptaLeaks reveal new evidence that immigration officials may have been captured by the Guptas – including two who were specially positioned in India by Malusi Gigaba’s office when he was home affairs minister.
E-mails show how senior Gupta employee Ashu Chawla repeatedly asked these two and other officials to fast-track visas to benefit Gupta businesses as they moved dozens of employees, associates and family members between South Africa, India and Dubai.
Previous evidence of Gigaba and his advisers’ relations with the Guptas have raised suspicions. These were underscored when President Jacob Zuma – who is close to the Guptas – controversially appointed Gigaba as finance minister in March.
In a string of e-mails, a home affairs official says Gigaba had signed an “instruction” for the two officials to be moved to offices in Mumbai and New Delhi respectively. However, Gigaba’s actual signed letter was not attached to the #GuptaLeaks e-mail.
At least one of the two officials already had a long-standing relationship with the Guptas and their lieutenant, Chawla, through private business projects and having apparently helped with visas in the past.
Chief among Chawla’s contacts in home affairs was one Major
Chawla appeared to have Kobese at his beck and call, often asking him to iron out visa troubles. In a number of e-mails, Kobese berated officials for not arranging visas for Chawla, or for not arranging them fast enough – then he forwarded these internal communications to Chawla, suggesting their relationship was closer than arm’s length.
He said: “Please note
Then he brought in Gigaba: “I have copied the minister’s office on this e-mail, for purposes of feedback.” Two minutes later,
In another e-mail,
Sahara Computers is a Gupta-owned firm where Chawla works.
Reversing the flow of goodwill,
Chawla dutifully sent the message and the song to managers at ANN7.
According to a CV in the file, Christians had worked in immigration for 20 years. In 2008, he moved to SA’s high commission in New Delhi. He stayed in India until 2014 when he moved to Cape Town International Airport as an assistant director in immigration.
Over those years, Christians built a relationship with Chawla and the Guptas.
For example, in 2011, Christians e-mailed a South African third party’s offer to sell “A Grade Coal” to Chawla and another Gupta executive. A month later, Christians sent Chawla a coal sale and purchase agreement with prospective Chinese buyers, “as per my meeting with Mr. Gupta yesterday”.
Chawla and Christians’ relationship grew, with Chawla helping Christians to let his Cape Town property and later to import a motorbike from India.
Meanwhile, Chawla sent Christians many requests for expedited visa approvals. When the Guptas prepared to launch ANN7 in 2013, the flow of e-mails was particularly strong as the new TV station sought to employ Indian nationals in South Africa.
In one e-mail, Chawla told Christians:
“As you know we are launching TV on 9th August so we need some more urgent visas to get the project running on time. Maybe I will request more in couple of days. Can you help me to get the below visa done today.”
Then Chawla e-mailed Christians the brand new ANN7 website address. Christian responded: “Nice one
Chawla responded: “Thanks for all the continuous support.”
On another occasion, a Gupta associate wrote to Chawla and Tony Gupta. The associate explained that his colleague had been banned from visiting South Africa after officials found he had sent “fraudulent” immigration documents.
Chawla was asked to “please help in taking this ban removed, I did speak to
Chawla promptly forwarded the message to Christians. It is not clear what became of the matter.
In another e-mail, Christians sent his CV to Chawla and wrote:
“Attached please find as discussed… Please let me know what is going on……Why do you need this??”
The answer was not clear, but Christians sent an updated CV a year later and in October 2015, one of Gigaba’s ministry staffers sent an “approved submission for Strategic Re-deployment of Officials in Missions”. The document is not available, but subsequent e-mails indicate that Gigaba had approved the transfer of Christians and “Ms Munyadziwa” to missions in New Delhi and Mumbai, respectively.
But officials pushed back. One suggested they were in the dark about the appointments and others explained that there were no vacancies and no budget for the Christians and Munyadziwa appointments.
Eventually Kobese took a stern tone with his colleagues:
“Please note that a decision has been taken by Minister [Gigaba] to deploy both Mr Christians and Ms Munyadziwa… It is my understanding that Minister has issued an instruction and not an opinion or recommendation. Our role is to carry the Minister’s instruction… All we working on at [the foreign office] is to ensure that Minister’s instruction is realized within a short-space of time. … We have no authority to do contrary to what Minister has instructed.”
Call me when you can.”
It is not clear if Christians
We were not able to positively identify “
He provided a list of names and passport numbers and said:
“Hi Khathu. I hope you doing well and enjoying Mumbai. There visas were submitted today and get it ready tomorrow and send it back to VFS. Thanks Ashu.” [sic]
After her polite response, Ashu wrote again:
“Dear Ms Kathu. Thanks for the prompt response. Please make sure it should be done tomorrow. Thanks Ashu.”
And less than 24 hours later:
Reporting on the #GuptaLeaks this week, Times Media Group published that when Gigaba was home affairs minister, his adviser Thamsanqa
Further #GuptaLeaks files reveal that, in February 2016, Chawla arranged to fly
Chawla also leaned on Gigaba – in a letter addressed to the minister but sent to adviser Msomi, now also a Denel director – to try to get South African citizenship for three members of the Gupta family, including Ajay Gupta’s son.
Chawla’s letter, addressed to “The Honourable Minister, Ministry of Home Affairs, South Africa”, read:
“Request you to reconsider the application which has been rejected by home affairs due to the fact that some of his family members have already acquired South African Citizenship and they have successful business running in South Africa.”
It is not clear if Gigaba reconsidered. DM
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Photo: Minister Malusi Gigaba speaks at the Early Birth Registration campaign in partnership with Procter and Gamble at Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, 2 December 2o16. (Photos GCIS)
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