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Gordhan persists with an application Gupta companies say should be dismissed

The High Court in Pretoria spent two days deliberating on whether to grant an order sought by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

Although Gordhan obtained legal opinion which showed he was not empowered to intervene in the relationship between registered banks and their customers‚ he nonetheless went to court in October last year seeking a similar order against companies controlled by the Gupta family.

Gordhan wanted the court to declare that he was not obliged‚ or empowered‚ by law‚ to intervene in the banking relationship between Oakbay companies and banks which closed their bank accounts.

He approached the court after a number of letters from Oakbay which sought the minister’s assistance in resolving its dispute with the banks.

The matter was heard by the full bench on Tuesday and Wednesday. Judge President Judge Dunstan Mlambo reserved judgment.

There had been speculation about the fate of the finance minister after he was summoned home by President Jacob Zuma from an international investor engagement roadshow in the UK on Monday.

Gordhan returned to the country on Tuesday and went first to ANC headquarters before attending the Tuesday afternoon session of his court application. He referred all questions surrounding his recall from the roadshow to the Presidency.

While Nedbank‚ Absa and First National Bank supported the order asked for by the minister‚ Standard Bank asked for a wider order which sought to prevent all cabinet ministers and the president from intervening in any decision by the bank to terminate its banking relationship with Oakbay companies.

However‚ three companies in the Gupta stable opposed the application‚ stating there was no live issue that needed determination by the court.

“The court would not pronounce on abstract and hypothetical cases‚” Oakbay Investments counsel Cedric Puckrin SC told the court.

He described the application as stillborn.

Puckrin described the case as academic and abstract because there was no live dispute between the parties.

Rafik Bhana SC‚ for another Gupta-controlled company‚ Sahara Computers‚ accused Gordhan of misusing public funds by bringing an application to court where there was no live dispute.

However‚ in reply‚ counsel for the minister Jeremy Gauntlett SC said the order sought would be binding on everyone cited as a party.

He said the order sought would have an effect of setting a precedent which could be used in other cases.