DA a step closer to having Gordhan's sacking reviewed

2017-05-04 22:38
James Selfe.

James Selfe. (Tshidi Madia)

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Johannesburg – The DA is a step closer to challenging President Jacob Zuma’s decision to sack Pravin Gordhan as finance minister, following its victory in the High Court in Pretoria on Thursday.

The matter was urgent because with every passing day, more damage was being done to the economy, DA federal executive chairperson James Selfe said after the ruling.

“There is a another ratings agency that is going to make an announcement about whether to downgrade South Africa, and we are hoping that the court can play with us in reviewing the rationality as soon as possible.”

Replacing Gordhan with Malusi Gigaba was not in the best interest of the nine million unemployed South Africans that were likely to remain unemployed through Zuma’s “reckless decision”, Selfe said.

Ratings agencies Fitch and Standard & Poor’s downgraded South Africa’s debt to junk status following Zuma’s large-scale Cabinet reshuffle on March 30. He appointed 10 new ministers and 10 new deputy ministers. Fitch said the reshuffle would weaken standards of governance and public finances.

ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said the executive should consider appealing the ruling.

In his order, Judge Bashier Vally gave Zuma five days to hand to the DA’s lawyers the record of all documents, contracts, memorandums, advice, recommendations, evaluations, and reports that informed his decision to change his Cabinet.

Vally ordered Zuma to pay the costs of the application. He would give reasons for his judgment in the High Court in Johannesburg on Tuesday.

The DA now wants the court to set aside Zuma’s decision to remove Gordhan and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas, on the grounds that it was irrational, and therefore unconstitutional, unlawful, and invalid.

‘Frivolous’ report

Steven Budlender, for the DA, argued in court that it was common cause that the decisions of the president were reviewable under the principle of legality.

“We are not aware of any decision where it says you are entitled to review, but not to the record.”

Budlender said the so-called “intelligence report” would be critical evidence. According to the document, Gordhan and Jonas were involved in a plot to undermine Zuma's government, with the assistance of international financial firms.

He said Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, ANC Chief Whip Jackson Mthembu and ANC treasurer Zweli Mkhize all raised concerns about the “frivolous” report.

Vally said there was no proof that it existed. Budlender said it was telling that senior government officials had made public statements about the document.

"Our client is in the dark and needs access to the record to prove whether Zuma relied on the intelligence report to make his decision,” Budlender said.

Radical economic transformation

Ishmael Semenya, for Zuma, said according to the Constitution it was Zuma’s prerogative to hire and fire ministers and deputy ministers. The DA was using the courts to question executive decisions.

"This was a political judgment made by the president.”

He said Zuma already gave his reasons to the nation when he said his reshuffle was in the interest of the ANC and its voters after the party’s poor performance in the local government elections in August 2016.

Zuma had said the new ministers would ensure radical economic transformation would be implemented urgently.

Budlender said the reasons Zuma gave the public were not categorically stated as “his reasons” in his court papers.

Selfe said they expected the intelligence report to form part of the record.

“If the president does not produce the report, then we want to know what happened to it, what weight was attached to it. The importance of this application is that the president cannot now come and invent reasons with the benefit of hindsight.

“Whatever he provides, he will be held accountable in the subsequent review application. If he says this was a political decision, we are going to test that decision on the rationality of it and the effect it had on the country.”

Zuma had better come up with better reasons than those his lawyers provided in court, he said.

Read more on:    da  |  jacob zuma  |  james selfe

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