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By Hein Kaiser

Journalist


Gordhan ‘the weakest link in the state-owned enterprise value chain’

Some have viewed his actions as deliberate.


Retire him or fire him. The Democratic Alliance’s Alf Lees has said the high court ruling on Mango leaves no doubt about Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan’s opaque methods.

Gordhan’s delayed approval on the sale of Mango was described as irrational by acting high court judge Tseli Phooko. His ruling compelled Gordhan to decide on the beleaguered airline’s sale or liquidation within 30 days. If he failed to do so, the sale would go ahead regardless.

ALSO READ: Judge rules on sale of Mango; calls Gordhan’s actions irrational

The Public Finance Management Act’s Section 54 makes provision for automatic approval should the executive, in this case Gordhan, fail to respond within the prescribed timeframe.

Since business rescue practitioner Sipho Sono first lodged the application at the end of November, Gordhan had demanded additional information about the airline’s potential buyer, which Sono said was confidential.

Gordhan’s actions were called unlawful and unconstitutional. Sono filed for relief in February. Phooko said it was Sono’s prerogative to share information relating to Mango’s business rescue and Gordhan had acted outside of his ambit when he demanded further details.

ALSO READ: Gordhan blamed as Mango sale remains a no-go

Furthermore, the judge called the minister’s inaction irrational and in violation of the constitution in terms of responsibly discharging his duties. Instead, Gordhan should have made a decision within 30 days of the date Sono refused to provide information on Mango’s potential buyer.

Lees welcomed the judgment and called for Gordhan’s firing or retiring. He accused Gordhan of being the weakest link in the state-owned enterprise value chain.

“He has failed at SAA (SA Airways), Eskom and every other state-owned company under his watch. Yet, somehow, he considers himself above the law.

ALSO READ: Frustration mounts as Pravin Gordhan ducks Parliament

“This judgment should bring him down to earth a little. It’s time he retires on the back of a shameful legacy.

“Let’s hope he does not block Mango’s sale as a kneejerk, vindictive response to the ruling.”

The constitution demands public office bearers exercise power responsibly and rationally.

Phooko wrote: “I do not see how a delay in taking a decision could be considered as rational”, and describe rationality as the minimum threshold requirement “applicable to the exercise of all public power by members of the executive and other functionaries…”

Lees said: “It is outrageous that taxpayer money has been wasted on a fruitless and clearly Stalingrad-type legal action that has now been fully exposed by the courts as being wrong.

ALSO READ: How SAA punched bruised Mango’s last ticket

“Minister Pravin Gordhan must surely be held personally accountable for the wasteful and fruitless expenditure on this court action as well as the losses incurred by Mango by its delayed business rescue process.”

Gordhan’s inaction had delayed the offloading of Mango by nearly a year and could have forced its liquidation instead of a resuscitation.

‘Deliberate’

Some viewed his actions as deliberate.

Mango has been in business rescue since July 2021. It caused the loss of 750 direct jobs and negatively impacted the domestic aviation value chain.

Sono had previously battled to get promised bailout funds released and had to rely on the courts to compel Public Enterprises to release the money.

ALSO READ: Legal action: Mango Airlines business rescuer takes Gordhan to court

Sono, along with co-applicant the National Union of Metalworkers, also argued that former Mango employees had lost out on possible re-employment at a revived Mango during the delay.

The judge saw merit in that. The ministers of public enterprises and finance, the department of public enterprises and National Treasury were ordered to pay costs

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