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Pravin Gordhan racism claims ‘rubbish’‚ says his advocate

State Enterprise minister Pravin Gordhan.
State Enterprise minister Pravin Gordhan.

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan’s lawyer says he had “good reasons” to fire the former Transnet board – and dismissed as "rubbish" allegations that his removal of board members was racist.

“There is nothing here that shows Minister Gordhan is a racist. With great respect‚ that’s just rubbish‚ for want of a better word‚” Gordhan’s advocate‚ Nazeer Cassim‚ argued in the Pretoria High Court on Monday afternoon.

Former Transnet board member Seth Radebe is suing Gordhan for “unfair discrimination”‚ based on the fact that Gordhan fired him just four months after he was appointed‚ but chose not to fire white board member Arlana Kinley – who’d been appointed at the same time as he had. Kinley has since resigned.

Gordhan maintains he removed the board because they failed to take action over evidence of multibillion-rand state capture at Transnet uncovered by a Werksmans investigation.

“Once one accepts that there was good reason to dismiss this particular individual‚ we submit discrimination doesn’t even come to the fore‚” Cassim argued on Monday.

Cassim went on to state that if a black employee assaulted his employer‚ he could then be dismissed because of his conduct – not because of his race but “because of the reasons he gave me why he behaved badly”.

He went on argue that claims of racism were “fashionable‚ My Lord‚ it’s an easy answer and very commonly used”‚ but stressed there was no evidence that Gordhan was a racist.

Cassim argued that Gordhan was acting in the public interest when he took action against Radebe‚ who he strongly suggested was responsible for “wasting” R27-million on an MSN investigation that was essentially a “rehash” of the 2017 Werksmans Attorneys report.

Gordhan said evidence contained in that report made it clear there were grounds for further investigation of several former and current Transnet officials in relation to the 1 064 locomotives deals.

The #GuptaLeaks emails contained claims that Gupta-linked companies received multibillion-rand kickbacks as part of that R50-billion locomotives acquisition.

Radebe maintains that he was only appointed in December last year and “the allegations of impropriety occurred before my tenure and appointment to the board of Transnet”. He further argues that the Werksmans report that Gordhan says required urgent action was not final‚ and further investigation was needed before any such action could be taken.

According to Radebe‚ Werksmans “could not interview” certain “material and key persons” when they conducted their procurement investigation – including former Eskom CFO Anoj Singh and Gupta family lieutenant Salim Essa. He says the firm itself acknowledged that its report was “incomplete”.

This‚ he maintains‚ is why he and the former Transnet board decided to appoint another audit firm to do further forensic investigation into the procurement of the 1‚064 locomotives – a decision he says was made in good faith.

Judge Hans Fabricius will hand down judgment on September 25.

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