Having faced a backlash over his true country, embattled Gigaba speaks up on an array of issues making the news about his real identity and his allege involvement with Guptas.

Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba says reports that he irregularly granted the Guptas naturalised citizenship are part of a “campaign to tarnish my name and de-focus me from my work”.

Gigaba and his deputy‚ Sifiso Buthelezi‚ hit out at allegations made against them in recent days during a media conference on Thursday‚ which was supposed to be dominated by plans to turn around the country’s ailing economy.

It emerged this week that Gigaba had signed off the Gupta family request for permanent South African citizenship after it had earlier been declined by officials during his previous job as home affairs minister in 2015.

Gigaba said, however, that had he granted the citizenship on “technical” grounds after an appeal was directed to him as home affairs minister.

He said officials at the Department of Home Affairs had reviewed their original decision based on new information that emerged following the appeal to him by the Guptas.

Former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor this week also claimed that Gigaba was not South African but Zimbabwean.

“These allegations are to tarnish my name and de-focus me from the work. My family has not been spared. My wife has been rubbished‚ my father has been rubbished. There is a campaign against us‚ people are being paid to run this campaign against us‚” he said. He stated strongly that his citizenship cannot be debated because he has never been an emigrant. His citizenship cannot be questioned.

He welcomed the announcement by Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane that she would launch an investigation into state capture allegations contained in the leaked Gupta emails. “Let us trust that the public protector will do a thorough job‚” he said.

Buthelezi hit back by throwing shade at his detractors‚ including his successor as Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) board chairman, Popo Molefe.

Buthelezi questioned the timing of the release of reports that he personally benefited from contracts worth R150 million while he was chairman of the Prasa board.

He said it was surprising that such information only reached the public domain three years after he left Prasa.

Buthelezi said the claims were a “vitriolic attack” and added: “I am not guilty of anything … I am not here for any personal gain‚ I am here for the people of South Africa.”

Taking a swipe at Molefe‚ Buthelezi said he had never had a company car or bodyguards during his tenure at Prasa‚ and that he had never been ordered by Parliament to pay back any money to a public institution.

He was referring to an instruction by parliament’s transport committee that ordered Molefe and other board members of PRASA to pay back non-executive directors’ fees earned in questionable circumstances.

Molefe last year paid back R680‚000 to Prasa‚ which was earned from extra board meetings. Buthelezi said he would cooperate with law enforcement agencies and the public protector.