Gigaba hears, 'How the hell can we believe you?'

2018-02-21 18:11 - Jeanette Chabalala and Jan Gerber
Finance Minister, Malusi Gigaba.

Cape Town – Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba didn't make it to the podium to deliver his maiden Budget Speech before the opposition attacked and the Guptas reared their head.

Sitting on the seat reserved for upcoming speakers next to President Cyril Ramaphosa, Gigaba had to listen to DA chief whip John Steenhuisen trying to convince Speaker Baleka Mbete to hear a substantive motion against Gigaba because a court judgment found that the Finance Minister had "deliberately told untruths under oath".

This comes after a court battle launched by Fireblade Aviation in November 2016 against the Department of Home Affairs and others.

The application sought to have the court declare that approval for a terminal at OR Tambo International Airport – allegedly granted by Gigaba in early 2016 while he was still minister of home affairs – could not be revoked. 

It is alleged that Gigaba revoked the approval he originally granted under pressure from the Guptas. 

"Defending state capture again!" Steenhuisen said to Mbete as she refused to allow his motion.

The DA laid a formal complaint with Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane earlier on Wednesday, requesting her to probe Gigaba for allegedly lying under oath during court proceedings and violating the Constitution during his tenure as minister of home affairs.

The DA said it was alleged at the time that Gigaba revoked the approval he initially granted, following pressure from the controversial Gupta family.

No sign of EFF

"I know that you are missing your colleagues in the red overalls," said Mbete, as the EFF's benches were empty. They said on Tuesday in a statement that they will boycott Wednesday's budget if Gigaba, which they described as "a Gupta stooge who was the engine of state capture under Jacob Zuma" presents it.

While Steenhuisen and Mbete had their to-and-fro, Gigaba sat quietly next to Ramaphosa, who also showed no reaction.

Before Gigaba could get going, COPE MP Deidre Carter also wanted to object to Gigaba delivering the budget address. She too was cut short by Mbete.

Some ANC MPs stood as Gigaba took his stand behind the podium.

As soon as Gigaba started speaking, DA MPs started hissing: "How can we believe you?"

A few minutes into his speech, DA MP Lindy Wilson started singing: "How the hell can we believe you?"

The interjections questioning Gigaba's honesty and mentioning his links to the Guptas from the DA continued throughout his speech, but Gigaba and Mbete paid it no mind.

In October 2017 the North Gauteng High Court granted permission to the aviation company, owned by the Oppenheimer family, to run a private customs and immigration service at OR Tambo International Airport for business people.

The South African Revenue Service (SARS) and the Department of Home Affairs would render the customs and immigration service, as is the case at Lanseria and Kruger Mpumalanga International airports, which are also privately owned.

Denials from minister

SARS and state-owned defence company Denel, from which Fireblade would lease the premises, both opposed the application.

Gigaba previously denied claims by the Oppenheimers that he had approved their application for a port of entry.

"I wish to state categorically that at no stage have I ever approved such application as alleged by the family," he said in a statement issued by the department in January 2017.

In December 2017, the Oppenheimers again won a legal battle to operate a private customs and immigration service at OR Tambo International Airport.

This came after Fireblade launched an urgent application in the North Gauteng High Court to have Home Affairs Minister Ayanda Dlodlo and director general Mkuseli Apleni jailed for contempt of court, after still not being able to open its VVIP services for international travellers despite court rulings in its favour, the Citizen reported.

The court found Gigaba denied ever having approved the application in his affidavit in response to the matter.

Call for Gigaba's removal as minister

"Unfortunately, there is no escaping the conclusion that the rejection of the minister's version must carry with it the conclusion that [he] had deliberately told untruths under oath," read the judgment.  

The ruling also stated that Gigaba was bound by the Constitution not to act in any way that is inconsistent with his office.

"By telling a deliberate untruth on facts central to the decision of this case, the minister has committed a breach of the Constitution so serious that I would characterise it as a violation," read the judgment.

However, on Wednesday Gigaba told journalists at a briefing ahead of his 2018 Budget Speech that the court's decision is being challenged. He said at no stage did he have an agreement with Fireblade.

But the DA said the ANC should now be compelled to act against Gigaba if it is a "renewed" organisation.

The DA also called for Gigaba's removal from office as finance minister.

"The ANC must prove to the South African people that they are serious about taking action against yet another one of their colleagues who has been found to have violated the Constitution for the benefit of the Gupta family.

"Should they fail to act, it would amount to a serious indictment on the ANC under President [Cyril] Ramaphosa's leadership."

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