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Zuma joins Gupta court battle to file motion against bank

Mar 27 2017 15:50
Matthew le Cordeur

Cape Town – President Jacob Zuma on Monday joined court proceedings as an interested party in the North Gauteng High Court matter between Oakbay Investments and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

This follows Zuma’s announcement on Monday that he has cancelled Treasury’s investor roadshow to the UK and US and ordered Gordhan to return home.

The rand tanked by almost 40 cents on the news, trading at R12.70 to the dollar by 15:34 on Monday.

When Gordhan sought a declaratory order to protect the Treasury’s executive from having to intervene in the closure of the Guptas’ bank account by the country’s top four banks, he added the banks to his founding papers.

Zuma’s court intervention, which is being tackled by the state attorney, is with regards to Standard Bank’s extended declaratory order against Zuma and all members of the Cabinet, which it included in its responding affidavit.

The state attorney said Zuma was added to Standard Bank’s responding affidavit “in circumstances where the president and no members of the Cabinet other than the minister of finance are parties to the proceedings”.

“The president ...seeks a striking from the roll, with costs, of Standard Bank’s application for the relief … which it styles as a notice of motion."

In its papers filed on December 13 2016, Standard Bank asked the court to prevent Zuma and any of his ministers from intervening in its decision to close company accounts associated with Oakbay.

State attorney assists Zuma and Gordhan

While the state attorney’s office is also representing Gordhan in the court case, they are being handled by different individuals based in Johannesburg and Pretoria.

A source at the state attorney’s office told Fin24 that there is no conflict in the state attorney representing both clients.

“There is no conflict,” the source, who asked to remain anonymous, said. “The state attorney representing the president is not at loggerheads with the minister of finance.”  

The source said the matter should be the first issue to be resolved when the hearing begins on Tuesday. “We don’t want to waste taxpayers’ money in court.”

Sahara Computers, which is owned by the Guptas through Oakbay Investments, filed papers in the high court to argue that the state attorney should prove the authority with which it can represent Gordhan.

This matter is also likely to take up time during the hearing on Tuesday, which will likely delay the issue at the heart of the court case.

Treasury spokesperson Yolisa Tyantsi said on Monday that the state attorney will respond to Sahara in court.

Standard Bank in bid to block Zuma's Gupta intervention

Standard Bank's affidavit 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.

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