Gupta-owned company Sahara Holdings has filed papers at the Pretoria High Court on Monday seeking an order that Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan must pay legal costs from his own pocket.
The papers were filed just 24 hours before the Guptas and Gordhan are set to battle in court regarding South African banks. In October 2016, Gordhan filed an explosive affidavit in which the Financial Intelligence Centre had flagged 72 “suspicious and unusual” transactions which totalled R6.8-billion.
Gordhan filed the affidavit in an application where he seeks a declaratory order from the court that he can not intervene in the Guptas’ troubles with South African banks.
South African banks last year severed ties with Gupta-owned businesses. Gordhan’s case is against Gupta-owned company Oakbay Investments.
Gupta-owned businesses have not opposed Gordhan’s bid, but have asked the court to dismiss the matter.
In papers filed on Monday, Sahara Holdings told the high court that Gordhan should be held personally liable for legal costs, accusing Gordhan of “ulterior purpose”.
“The minister’s conduct in this court, including attempting to score political points at the state’s expense, is deserving of such a sanction,” the company said.
“The state should not be saddled with the costs with what is, at its most, wasteful and unnecessary expenditure which ought to be recognised as political manoeuvring with an ulterior purpose.”
Sahara argues that it is suspicious that Gordhan has continued with the matter even though it has been unopposed that he cannot intervene in the relationships between Gupta businesses and the banks. They accuse Gordhan of using the courts to wage a “political fight”, and suggest that the court will be complicit if it does not dismiss his application.
“This declaratory order, if granted, will allow the Minister to obfuscate the principal of separation of powers and impermissibly co-opt this Court to aid him in his political fight with the President and the Cabinet,” Sahara said.
The Guptas have accused Gordhan of targeting their businesses before, but the minister hit back saying that it was the Guptas who were targeting Treasury officials, who have cast an observant eye on Gupta businesses since allegations of the family’s involvement in a state capture in President Jacob Zuma’s administration first emerged.