Former Transnet director Seth Radebe lashes Pravin Gordhan over ‘racist’ dismissal

Public Enterprise Minister Pravin Gordhan.
Public Enterprise Minister Pravin Gordhan.

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan “failed dismally” to respond to allegations of racism leveled against him by ousted Transnet director Seth Radebe‚ his lawyer told a court on Monday.

Radebe has filed an urgent application to challenge his dismissal by Gordhan and to seek the removal of the new Transnet board‚ appointed by Gordhan.

Radebe’s lawyer‚ Advocate Dali Mpofu‚ said the racism claims against Gordhan was “so serious” it could cost him his job.

Mpofu argued that Radebe was unlawfully dismissed by Gordhan‚ whom he maintains also unlawfully removed the Transnet board earlier this month. Mpofu said Gordhan failed to answer to Radebe’s claims that Gordhan “bullied” him “in the corridors of parliament‚ and screamed and shouted at him”.

Radebe wants the High Court in Pretoria to declare that Gordhan’s conduct in firing him amounted to “unfair discrimination” and was “unlawful‚ invalid and unconstitutional”.

Gordhan said he fired Radebe for failing to take action over evidence of multibillion-rand state-capture looting at the parastatal. He denied that the dismissal was driven by racism.

Gordhan also rejected Radebe’s accusations that he was racist in his decision to keep Arlana Kinley – who has since resigned – on the Transnet board‚ while he fired Radebe. Kinley was appointed at the same time as Radebe‚ in December 2017.

“The overtures [of Radebe] are racist‚ unkind and unfair in concluding I was racist in retaining her. Race had nothing to do with this‚” Gordhan stated in court documents filed ahead of the hearing.

The minister added that Kinley had not played the prominent role that Radebe had in investigating Trasnet’s dodgy procurement of 1‚064 diesel and electric locomotives from four manufacturers. It was Radebe’s failure to take action in response to that investigation‚ said Gordhan‚ that drove his decision to axe him.

Gordhan said Kinley’s retention was aimed at ensuring continuity and had nothing to do with race.

But Mpofu said this explanation was “senseless” and “would not insulate the minister from an allegation of unfair discrimination”. He said Gordhan would still need to explain why he chose Kinley to ensure this continuity and not Radebe.

“The state has a positive duty to ensure that citizens are protected from this kind of thing‚ let alone to be the perpetrator‚” Mpofu told Judge Hans Fabricius. “The fact that it is the state who is discriminating against its own citizens makes a mockery of claims that this is a break from the past.”

Mpofu later added: “Whatever frustrations the minister had about state capture‚ he had no right to shout and scream at Mr Radebe like he was his child.”

Earlier in the proceedings‚ Fabricius refused Transnet the right to submit evidence about the “calamitous” implications that the removal of the new board would have on the parastatal‚ as it had sought to file this evidence outside of court-ordered deadlines.

The hearing continues.

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