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Zuma's triple whammy for Gordhan

Politics
Johannesburg – Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan is about to be hit with a triple whammy.

On Monday, the Presidency recalled him from a meeting with investors in London.

On Tuesday, he faces a court showdown with the Guptas, with President Jacob Zuma also there as an “interested party”.

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Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and President Jacob Zuma Picture: Rogan Ward / ReutersBrian Molefe Picture: Timothy Bernard

And to add to his woes, speculation is mounting that he and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas will soon be axed from the cabinet.

On Tuesday, Gordhan was to apply to the high court in Pretoria to clarify whether he does or does not have the power to intervene in matters between banks and their clients.

However, in recently filed court papers, Zuma argues that he would be directly affected in any declaratory order that the courts hand down because Standard Bank, which is among the respondents, had asked that no member of the executive, including the president, should be allowed to intervene in the matter between the Guptas and the banks.

“Neither the president nor any of the other members of the cabinet are before this court as parties to this application launched by the minister of finance,” Zuma says in his affidavit. He was therefore “obliged” to take steps to join the proceedings, he says.

Standard Bank did not elect to join him or any other minister in the proceedings, he says, but rather had informed him of its intent and “effectively” “invited him to intervene” in the proceedings.

Zuma argues that Standard Bank cannot ask for the relief of a declaratory order barring him or any cabinet minister from intervening in the closure of the accounts because it has not joined him as a party to the proceedings.

Standard Bank’s application should be struck from the roll, says Zuma, and the bank should be ordered to pay the president’s costs.

On Monday, the Guptas’ company Sahara Holdings filed papers in the high court in Pretoria, seeking an order that Gordhan pay for their legal costs out of his own pocket.

The rand, meanwhile, slumped 2% on the news that Gordhan and Jonas had been recalled from overseas.

And to add to the drama, a well-placed source told The Star that at least six other cabinet ministers and deputy ministers could follow Jonas and Gordhan through the exit door.

Our source said: “This is the end of the road for Gordhan and Jonas."

“If Zuma wields the axe in such a forthright manner, it can mean only one thing: that he is unchallenged in both the national executive committee and in the cabinet, and that he has sidelined people like Gwede Mantashe and Cyril Ramaphosa.

“Things have been going well for the president in the run-up to national leadership elections for the ANC later this year: Nelson Mandela Bay was won by a pro-Zuma follower, Andile Lungisa (even though he was subsequently ordered to relinquish the post). Zuma has also received backing in eThekwini in KwaZulu-Natal."

The source added: “Zuma only acts when he knows he will win, when he has everything in place. A cabinet reshuffle would be an indication that his opponents cannot touch him.”

The key question ahead of a reshuffle is: Who will replace Gordhan? It was said more than a year ago that ANC MP Sfiso Buthelezi would get the post, but nothing subsequently materialised.

Then, the swearing in of former Eskom boss Brian Molefe as an ANC MP last month again fuelled speculation that Gordhan was on his way out.

Wits University analyst Susan Booysen said Zuma had the full backing of the NEC and the cabinet in his actions.

It appears too that his foot soldiers are working behind the scenes to sway the ANC caucus in Parliament to back him.

Dirk Kotze of Unisa said the recall of Gordhan by Zuma was a show of force by the president.

He said that by recalling the finance minister from an international trip he was asserting his authority and showing everyone who was in charge.

He said the recall of Gordhan was taking the country back to December 2015, when Zuma fired then finance minister Nhlanhla Nene.

The Banking Association of South Africa asked Zuma to act in the interests of the country.

“We appeal that the Presidency and all critical stakeholders act in the best interests of the country by avoiding precipitate actions that have significant negative impact on economic growth and social development,” it said.

Opposition parties also slated Zuma for his decision to recall Gordhan from the trip.

Political Bureau

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