Apleni has filed papers with the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, to urgently have his suspension overturned.
In papers he said: “My view is that it is unconstitutional to give preference of this kind to one entity without a competitive bidding process.”
A decision of such magnitude should be taken by the cabinet, he said, but the minister was of the opinion that the matter must be settled directly with the Oppenheimer family.
In the papers, Apleni said one of the reasons given for his suspension was that he failed to give effect to a verbal instruction by the minister to settle the litigation between the department and Fireblade Ltd.
This company, owned by the Oppenheimer family, is entangled in litigation with the department about whether it should be allowed to operate a “very, very important persons fixed-based aviation operation” centre at OR Tambo.
Apleni said the essence of what they sought was the exclusive use of a section of the airport for themselves and those approved by the family on the basis that they were “very, very important persons”.
The family wants a customs and immigration service to facilitate international arrivals and departures of heads of state and other celebrities. The effect is that Home Affairs has to make its own staff available for this.
Apleni indicated that he would turn to court on Tuesday after Mkhize placed him on precautionary suspension on September 18.
He said in court papers that the minister’s reasons for suspending him were irrational and the process followed in suspending him procedurally unfair.
“The minister has failed to show any objectively justifiable reason to deny me access to the workplace based on the integrity of any pending investigation into the alleged misconduct, or some other relevant factor that would place the investigation or the interests of affected parties in jeopardy,” he stated.
Apleni said he was integral to the success of some ongoing projects. “It is important that I return to my position as to execute the projects without improper political interference.”
Litigation in this regard was pending in court between the family and the department. Apleni said if he was not there to fight it, he feared the minister would give instructions to settle it.
He also mentioned several other matters which the minister was intent on settling, but which he felt had to be opposed. “The minister is interfering with operational matters in the department.”
Apleni also said that to date no acting director-general had been appointed in his place. This meant that the department was operating without leadership.
He was also involved in critical decisions relating to the roll-out of key department objectives, Apleni said, such as smart card IDs and passports, and his absence in the office would negatively impact on all these projects.
“I believe there may be other motives that underlie why I have been suspended. One of the reasons for my suspension was the vague assertion that I have not resolved legal disputes,” he said.
Apleni said he was “utterly astonished” when the minister earlier this month told him to give reasons why he should not be placed on precautionary suspension pending an investigation into allegations of misconduct against him. He said there were no factual basis for the minister’s complaints against him.
The allegations against him include that he failed to prioritise filling critical posts in the department and that he did not keep her informed about the government’s political programmes. In his lengthy affidavit, Apleni dealt with all the complaints, which he said were vague and totally without merit. The minister must still file her opposing papers.