Home affairs director-general Mkhuseli Apleni is going back to work.
Judge Hans Fabricius today ruled in the High Court in Pretoria that former Home Affairs Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize lacked the authority to suspend Apleni, and declared that his suspension was unconstitutional and of no force and effect.
There was loud applause in court after Judge Fabricius read out his court order. Apleni, who hugged his supporters and shook hands with his legal team, smiled broadly as he told reporters he was going back to work directly to serve the people of South Africa.
He said he found it shocking how people abused their powers and it pained him that in government one could not find ways to resolve matters internally, forcing you to have to go to court.
He said he had not yet spoken to the new Home Affairs Minister Ayanda Dlodlo, but the application had nothing to do with her and he just wanted to get on with his work.
Apleni has accused Mkhize 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 which ought not to be settled.
This included litigation by Fireblade, a company owned by the Oppenheimers, 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 that involved the minister’s son, Sizwe.
Mkhize, now the newly appointed 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.
Judge Fabricius found that the minister had no authority to suspend the director-general of Home Affairs and that only President Zuma could suspend him.
He rejected the Presidency and home affairs’ reliance on a 1999 letter by former President Thabo Mbeki in which he delegated his powers to the deputy president and the various ministers.