Advocate Dali Mpofu, counsel for ousted Transnet director Seth Radebe, told the high court in Pretoria on Monday that Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan discriminated against his client when he removed him from the board of the state-owned entity.
In a case before Judge Hans Fabricius, Radebe accused Gordhan of acting in a discriminatory manner and begs the court to declare his axing in May invalid and unconstitutional.
Mpofu argued that Gordhan was exercising excessive power over Transnet.
The attorney took issue with what he called Gordhan’s failure to respond to allegations of racism being levelled against him by Radebe.
Mpofu said: “I’ve news for the minister. You don’t just fire people willy-nilly. The courts have said even the president of the republic cannot do that. He [Gordhan] subjectively thought he was God. Here’s someone who thinks he is a super minister and is not obliged to respond.
“Here’s someone who doesn’t understand the workings of government and the state. This kind of arrogance is carried on [in Gordhan’s documents]. He says he didn’t want someone like him [Radebe] in ‘my’ board. It’s not his board. If he wants to fire his gardener at home, that is fine.”
In his argument, Gordhan argued that he fired Radebe because he plainly ignored evidence of state capture, which bled the parastatal billions of rands.
In May, Gordhan removed Radebe and two others from the parastatal’s board.
Gordhan explained at the time that the failure of the Transnet board to act on damning findings of a report by law firm Werksmans was among the reasons for the removal of the three remaining Transnet board members.
The minister subsequently appointed the interim board headed by Popo Molefe.
Gordhan said the Werksmans report was clear on what the Transnet board needed to do following the controversial R54.5 billion locomotives contract.
Advocate Nazeer Cassim, for Gordhan, told the court that allegations that the minister was a racist were purely nonsensical.
“It is a decision that he took that this man is not fit for the board. We know that R17.4 billion was lost in the purchase of those locomotives. Should the minister wait until people die? The country was robbed,” said Cassim.
“The minister acted to stop the bleeding. If people at Transnet had acted, billions of rands would have been saved.”
The hearing continues.