By Pinky Khoabane
Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba
DISHONESTY and politics are nothing new. What is new in today’s fast technological world including social media, is the speed with which a politician is caught-out and even how swift their claims can be distorted.
Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba found himself in a mess these past two days as he tried to explain whether the Gupta brothers had South African citizenship or not.
It wasn’t long after he had appeared before the Home Affairs parliamentary committee, from which he emerged feeling good that his explanation that the Guptas were not citizens would put the matter to bed, that social media exploded with contradictory statements which were attributed to him.
Before long, an identity copy of Atul Gupta was circulating on social media which showed he was a South African citizen. The home affairs department spokesman Mayihlome Tshwete spent Tuesday evening explaining that the contradiction stemmed from a parliamentary question which dealt only with Ajay Gupta and not Atul. All this time, some social media users were urging those with the technology to use the Independent Electoral Commission’s (IEC) website to see if any of the brothers were on the system. Bingo. Atul and Rajesh were found to be registered on the IEC voter’s roll. But technology and social media are a dangerous couple – you’re never certain what is or not fake or what is photoshopped or not. And those details don’t matter on social media.
Somewhere in the confusion, Gigaba issued a statement saying he had mistakenly said Atul was not a citizen when he meant Ajay. Indeed it was established that Ajay had not renounced his Indian citizenship and could therefore not be granted South African citizenship.
By Wednesday there was a press briefing by Home Affairs Director General Mkuseli Apleni who explained that the naturalisation of Atul was dealt with before Gigaba’s tenure and reiterated that Ajay was not a citizen but that other members of his family were South African citizens.
Enter IEC, who then confirm that the two Gupta brothers, Atul and Rajesh, were citizens.
Frankly, does it matter during whose tenure the naturalisation took place? The department should have simply prepared a fact sheet of the entire Gupta naturalisation project – the question about the rest of the Gupta family was always going to come up – it had already been in the public domain. As for confusing Ajay and Atul and then explaining that the minister was referring to the question of whether Atul was naturalised during his tenure – just sheer own goals.
Had there been a proper communication plan around this matter, the question would have been whether the dishonesty was a mistake or intended to deceive – but with the shambolic manner with which the matter has been handled, this looks more like one of those lies deliberately meant to be recognised as a lie.