Suspended home affairs director-general Mkuseli Apleni has forged ahead with an urgent court application to set aside his suspension, despite the possibility that newly appointed Home Affairs Minister Ayanda Dlodlo might decide to lift it.
Counsel for Apleni, William Mokhari, told the High Court in Pretoria yesterday that as things stood, they were in the dark about the new minister’s views on his client’s suspension, but they would let the court know if there was any change in the situation.
This was after Judge Hans Fabricius asked counsel if he should wait for the new minister to make a decision or go ahead and write his judgment.
He said the new minister should be aware of the litigation and would need a director-general, whether it was Apleni or someone else.
Mokhari said Apleni remained suspended and the dispute was if the minister had the power to suspend him, on which the court could give a ruling no matter who the minister was.
Ironically, home affairs relied on an affidavit by former home affairs minister Hlengiwe Mkhize to oppose the application.
Apleni accused the minister of acting irrationally and suspending him on trumped-up charges so that she could use his absence to settle litigation against the department involving millions of rands. He maintained these should not be settled.
This included litigation by Fireblade, a company owned by the Oppenheimer family, to be allowed to operate a “very, very important persons” centre at OR Tambo International Airport, a R300 million claim by the liquidators of Double Ring Trading 222 and a R1 million dispute with Atlantis Corporate Travel which involved the minister’s son, Sizwe.
Mkhize, now the new higher education minister, in turn accused Apleni of being mischievous, making unsubstantiated claims, deliberately ridiculing her in front of the executive committee and undermining her authority.
Mokhari said Apleni still did not know the reasons for his suspension, which was punitive and the court had a duty to step in because of the patent abuse of power.
He argued that the minister had no authority to suspend him and that only President Jacob Zuma could suspend him.
But the presidency and home affairs relied on a 1999 letter by former president Thabo Mbeki in which he delegated his powers to the deputy president and the various ministers.
Mokhari shot down this argument, saying the sections of the law in terms of which Mbeki had delegated the powers had been repealed and President Zuma had never delegated the powers himself.
He argued that the 1999 document on which the President and Home Affairs relied had been “lifted off the Internet” and the original had never been produced. He said President Zuma had also not filed any affidavit to say that he had delegated his powers.
Fabricius reserved judgment. – email@example.com