Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan on Tuesday told reporters at the High Court in Pretoria, where his battle against the Guptas continues, that he was still the minister. Gordhan and his deputy, Mcebisi Jonas, arrived a the court late in the afternoon after earlier being spotted at the ANC’s headquarters in Johannesburg, Luthuli House.
Asked what had been discussed, Gordhan said: “Must I ask you what you discuss with your employer? This morning I was there to have a discussion. We had a discussion and we left.” Gordhan and his deputy arrived back in the country this morning after National Treasury’s international investment roadshow was abruptly cut short by President Zuma on Monday.
Gordhan told reporters he had not yet been told why he had been recalled from London, adding: “I didn’t recall myself.” He said reporters should’ve believe rumors that he had been fired or had resigned.
“Rumors are supposed to be rumors,” he said. Asked how he was feeling, he replied “great”, but later added: “I’m doing fairly well.”
Gordhan persisted with his application for a court order declaring that he was not legally obliged to interfere with the decision of South Africa’s four major banks to close the bank accounts of the Gupta family’s group of companies in South Africa. This despite Oakbay Investments conceding that he was not under a legal obligation to interfere in the private business dealings between banks and their clients.
One of the Gupta companies, Sahara computers, accused the minister of trying to score political points and to preempt a possible decision by Cabinet to launch an inquiry into the country’s major banks. Standard Bank is also seeking a court order to stop interference by President Jacob Zuma or any Cabinet members in their private banking relationships with their clients. A full bench of the High Court yesterday thwarted President Zuma’s attempt to intervene in the application.
The president wanted the court to strike out Standard Bank’s application as he and the Cabinet had not been cited as parties. Judge President Dunstan Mlambo said the president was not party to the proceedings and would have to launch a formal application if he wanted to be joined, whereafter the President withdrew, saying he “did not want to be a party to this application”.
The court ruled that any reference in the court papers to a Financial Intelligence Centre report about 72 “suspicious” financial transactions involving the Gupta companies must be struck out. The Judges also ruled that any reference by Oakbay to Gordhan being a “weak-kneed politician” too scared to make his own decisions and to Gordhan allegedly colluding with the banks against the Guptas must be struck from court papers.
Gordhan’s application continued after the case stood down for almost two hours for a possible settlement. Oakbay insists that it does not have to withdraw its opposition to the application and that the minister should have withdrawn his application, which ought not to be before court.
Counsel for Gordhan, Jeremy Gauntlett SC, argued that the issue went beyond the parties as the minister, as a functionary, wanted to be sure about the exact extent and powers of his office. “No one in the country should be pushing a minister to do what he is not bound by law to do,” he said. The application continues.