Ousted Transnet director Seth Radebe has accused Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan of racial discrimination, arrogance and treating Transnet like his personal fiefdom.
Radebe yesterday applied to the High Court in Pretoria to immediately reinstate him, remove the new Transnet Board and to declare Gordhan’s conduct unlawful, invalid, unconstitutional and discriminatory.
Gordhan, who has accused Radebe and the previous Transnet board of deliberately failing to act against individuals implicated in alleged large-scale state capture corruption, fired Radebe in April after the board failed to suspend Transnet chief financial officer Garry Pita and Transnet CEO Siyabonga Gama.
Radebe alleged in court papers the minister’s instructions were unlawful and appeared to be based purely on unsubstantiated media reports.
He referred to an incident in parliament when Gordhan allegedly screamed at him, accused him of failing to suspend certain people and tried to bully him into carrying out “unlawful instructions”. Gordhan has denied the allegations.
Radebe said he had to endure “unbearable indignity” because of Gordhan’s conduct, his reputation as a chartered accountant was at stake and the matter cried out for the court to curb Gordhan’s abuse of power.
Counsel for Radebe Dali Mpofu argued that Gordhan’s decision to get rid of his client after just four months, but to retain the services of Arlana Kinley, a white woman who was appointed on the same day, was irrational and amounted to unfair racial discrimination.
He said Gordhan appeared to regard himself as a “super minister” who could hire and fire as he pleased, his conduct was arrogant and amounted to a rejection of “everything good and noble our country stood for”.
He had no right to demean a person of Radebe’s stature and it was no good to say he had good intentions, as it did not give him a licence to breach the law, he added.
Nazeer Cassim, for Gordhan, argued the minister had good reason to fire Radebe, who conceded he had “messed up” and wasted R27 million on a second investigation into allegations of corruption surrounding the acquisition of locomotives at inflated prices.
He described Gordhan as “the last man standing” who felt strongly that he wanted a Transnet board prepared to take proactive steps to address state capture. There was nothing to show that Gordhan was a racist, he added.
Judge Hans Fabricius reserved judgment until later this month.