Johannesburg - Financial institution Standard Bank Group has asked the North Gauteng High Court to prevent President Jacob Zuma and any of his ministers from intervening in its decision to close company accounts associated with Gupta-linked Oakbay.
This is according to an affidavit, consisting of over 100 pages, filed by the bank in the court on Wednesday, which details how the company came under pressure after closing accounts belonging to the Oakbay companies.
"The public campaign and political pressure brought to bear upon Standard Bank to review and reverse its decision ... was orchestrated by Oakbay and its associated entities which relied on their apparent political connections and influence in government to mount them," said Standard Bank's general counsel Ian Sinton.
"The pressure brought to bear on Standard Bank, in the context described above and at the instance of Oakbay and its associated entities, is unprecedented, and to the best of my knowledge has not been experienced by it or any of the members of the Standard Bank group, in connection with or arising from a decision to terminate a banker-customer relationship, with any of its erstwhile customers," said Sinton.
"As part of such campaigns Standard Bank's senior executives were requested to attend a meeting with some members of the National Executive Committee of the ANC and a meeting with a committee of Cabinet purportedly led by the Minister of Mineral Resources, Mr Mosebenzi Zwane, to account to them for Standard Bank's decision," added Sinton.
Standard Bank's court papers further revealed how Oakbay also accused the bank of having a "racist motive" in the closure of the accounts.
"Oakbay also attributed a racist motive to Standard Bank, as part of 'big capital', when it decided to terminate the banking relationships with Oakbay and its associated entities," said Standard Bank.
"The accusations were and are offensive, unlawful and unfounded," said Standard Bank in the court papers.
Standard Bank added that Oakbay attempted to invoke "direct political pressure on Standard Bank" when it allegedly requested that the ANC "intervene for its benefit".
"This resulted in Mr Sim Tshabalala, the Chief Executive Officer of Standard Bank, being invited by the Secretary General of the ANC to meet at Luthuli House to account for Standard Banks's decision to terminate the Oakbay related accounts," said Sinton.
"He and I attended that meeting on 21 April 2016. The ANC was represented, by amongst others, Mr Gwede Mantashe, Ms Jesse Duarte and Mr Enoch Ngodongwana," said Sinton.
"Standard Bank was asked in the meeting to respond to the accusation that it was colluding with 'monopoly capital' to oppress a black-owned business, the self-same accusation as had been included in Oakbay's letter to the SBG shareholder," Sinton added.
Standard Bank goes further than an October order sought by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. In that order, Gordhan has asked the court for a ruling that he doesn’t have the authority to interfere with whom banks choose as clients.
Gordhan approached the court after he said that Oakbay repeatedly tried to pressure him to get the banks to overturn their decisions to close Oakbay accounts.
Standard Bank’s bid to block President Jacob Zuma from intervening in the Gupta banks case follows recent affidavits from FirstRand and Nedbank.
Nedbank, in its court papers, also said Minister Zwane urged the lender to reconsider its decision to sever ties with companies tied to the Gupta family.