Malusi Gigaba cites Gupta e-mail in plea to President Cyril Ramaphosa
Private meeting in Joburg as minister digs in over Oppenheimers' airport terminal
Home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba is digging in his heels, tabling a 30-point presentation with President Cyril Ramaphosa to try to convince his boss he did not lie when he told the court he never approved the Oppenheimers' Fireblade airport terminal.
At a meeting at the president's private home in Johannesburg on Friday, Gigaba is said to have also come armed with an e-mail that he believes proves that Fireblade colluded with Gupta-owned Oakbay to get approval to operate the VVIP terminal.
The meeting came after the ANC's top six officials are said to have agreed that Ramaphosa must take action against Gigaba after the courts and the public protector found he had lied under oath when he denied granting approval to Fireblade.
Ramaphosa's spokesperson, Khusela Diko, confirmed the meeting but declined to divulge details.
Diko said Ramaphosa is committed to complying with public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane's recommendations to take action against Gigaba by this Wednesday.
Insiders said Gigaba told Ramaphosa that the courts and Mkhwebane "erred" in their conclusions. He said the internal memo that the courts relied on to prove he approved the deal were notes he scribbled on a letter and were meant for the deputy director of immigration services. He said the "approval" he wrote "in haste" on the letter was taken out of context, as he was merely agreeing in principle. It was not a definitive approval.
Gigaba told Ramaphosa the courts only upheld the finding that he lied because his successor at home affairs, Hlengiwe Mkhize, did not appeal that particular finding.
He said that contrary to the courts' findings, he declined the Oppenheimers' application in a letter to them in October 2016.
Gigaba is said to be buoyed by the emergence of an e-mail that Fireblade director Robbie Irons is said to have written to Gupta lieutenants Ronica Ragavan and Ashu Chawla on May 6 2015.
In the e-mail, Irons updates the Guptas on meetings with Jacob Zuma, and tells them that Gigaba had signed a "resolution" paving the way for the deal to be approved. In addition, he tells the Guptas that Gigaba has been instructed by the government to "stop messing around" and approve the project.
Contacted for comment, Gigaba declined to speak about the Ramaphosa meeting.
However, he said Irons's e-mail was proof that the Oppenheimers collaborated with the Guptas. He said Irons's claim that he, Gigaba, had signed a "resolution" was a lie. "What is this resolution? There is no such a thing in government." Gigaba said the Oppenheimers never mentioned the e-mail in court as it contradicted their argument that it was he who was batting for the Guptas.
Fireblade confirmed updating the Guptas on its application because they were Fireblade's clients. The company said the relationship was terminated after "a potential security concern" at the Fireblade terminal.
The Sunday Times understands that Ramaphosa told the ANC officials last Saturday that he had received Mkhwebane's report and had until Wednesday to take action. The officials are said to have agreed in principle that Gigaba's actions were inexcusable and that action be taken against him.
Ramaphosa is said to have won the argument that similar steps be taken against minister of women Bathabile Dlamini.
A source close to the president said he wanted to take action against the pair before he opposed the DA's court action aimed at forcing him to fire them. ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe did not respond to a request for comment.
Insiders said Gigaba has been advised by some allies, including Ekurhuleni mayor Mzwandile Masina, that he should consider stepping down. But Masina said he stood by Gigaba on the Fireblade issue. "I have advised him on the possible options, but I will not discuss them with the media."