Court blocks Guptas’ bid to make Gordhan pay

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The High Court in Pretoria on Tuesday, rejected a vigorous bid by Gupta-owned Sahara Computers to have Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan personally pay legal costs in the ongoing court wrangle involving South Africa’s major banks.

“The 14th respondent [Sahara Computers] filed a notice in terms of Rule Seven of the uniform rules of court disputing the authority of the State Attorney to represent the applicant, the minister of finance, in this proceedings and called on the State Attorney to establish its authority to act for him,” Judge President Dunstan Mlambo said as he made the ruling on behalf of a full bench of judges.

Gupta Gordhan

“Since the Rule Seven notice was filed out of time, the 14th respondent further filed an application seeking condonation for the late filing of the Rule Seven notice. In our view, the 14th respondent has failed to show good cause for the late filing of the Rule Seven notice. We are satisfied that the State Attorney has the requisite authority to represent the applicant [Gordhan] in these proceedings. The application for condonation is therefore dismissed.”

The court ruling followed submissions made in court by counsel for Sahara Computers, Advocate Kameel Premhid, arguing that Gordhan must personally pick up the tab for his “unnecessary application”, not the State Attorney.

Gordhan has approached the court, seeking a declaratory judgment endorsing that he cannot intervene in the dispute between Gupta-owned Oakbay Investments and South Africa’s major banks

“The difficulty here, as has been raised in Sahara’s supplementary affidavit, is that in the main application we contend that even though the minister comes before this court in his ex officio capacity, he is actually here to obtain a different purpose. As you [judges] will be aware, we say we want a personal cost order against the minister,” Premhid submitted to the judges.

“He must pay for this litigation out of his pocket and not from the State. The relevance of determining authority is important for us to understand who took the decision, possibly why they took the decision, and what ramifications flow from that.”

Earlier, Mlambo told President Jacob Zuma’s lawyers, led by Matthew Chaskalson, SC, that the head of State is not formally any party to the court proceedings and cannot seek any relief.

“You are not a party to the proceedings. How do you ask for [any] relief? Our view — you are not a party before us. The best you could do is to sit and observe. At some stage, your client [Zuma] will make an election whether they want to join the fray. At this stage you are not before us,” Mlambo addressed Chaskalson.

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