Home Affairs minister ducks and dives on DG suspension
Home Affairs Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize on Tuesday wriggled her way out of media questions about the sudden suspension on Monday of her director-general‚ Mkuseli Apleni.
Mkhize‚ who paid a surprise visit to the Pinetown Home Affairs office‚ said she would not give reasons on Apleni's precautionary suspension - but she justified her terse statement on Monday.
"There are stages in dealing with an inquiry. The first stage is the most important one where the matter is internal‚ is closed to allow [for] employer and employee relationship to be handled with sensitivity.
So that's the only reason I can give why we were so limited in terms of information. We are limited by the prescripts of public service that bind us‚" she said.
Apleni's tenure as home affairs DG has not been without controversy. But it remains unclear why Apleni was suspended‚ as the department provided no reasons for the move.
The department recently came under fire after it emerged that former home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba had granted the Gupta family citizenship despite a senior official having previously turned down the request. Apleni is believed to be among the officials who did not agree with the minister's granting of citizenship to the controversial family.
Asked about the Gupta factor‚ Mkhize said everyone should be careful and not be driven by all sorts of agendas in dealing with the issue because "if you do that you end up losing credibility".
"It's so important to be driven by facts. The whole idea of an investigation and inquiry is about being factual in what we are talking about. Even myself I'm ever cautious about this matter so that when I engage on the issue I must always know what I'm talking about‚" said Mkhize.
The minister added that it would be premature for anyone to pronounce on internal processes because the prescripts of government do not allow that.
"We are really expected to treat matters with absolute integrity with respect for people's concerns and make sure we are not driven by the public hype because it doesn’t help with processes of this kind‚" she said.
In June‚ Apleni admitted to Parliament’s portfolio committee on home affairs that the approved naturalisation of the controversial Gupta family was not tabled before Parliament‚ as required.
However‚ he insisted that the process of naturalisation itself was above board.
At recent meetings in Parliament‚ Apleni also distanced himself from a letter circulating on social media pertaining to the naturalisation. He said the dates on the letter did not correspond with those in the actual naturalisation process‚ rendering its authenticity questionable.
Apleni told the committee that the Guptas applied for naturalisation as a family and that‚ according to the law‚ if one member of an applicant family does not meet the requirements for naturalisation‚ the entire family’s applications would be unsuccessful.
Asked if the matter would be discussed in cabinet or if she would take it to cabinet‚ Mkhize said: "I will never know. I don't set the cabinet agenda so I don't know what is on the agenda‚" she said.