The Gauteng High Court has ordered president Jacob Zuma to provide record and reasons for why he fired former finance minister Pravin Gordhan, following an urgent application made by the Democratic Alliance.
Judge Bashir Vally sided with the DA on the matter, saying that the documentation must be provided within 5 court days, and that Zuma must pay the DA’s legal costs.
The DA had asked the court to order Zuma to provide a written record of decisions and reasons for the Cabinet reshuffle, to support the DA’s case arguing for Zuma’s decision to be set aside on the basis that it was invalid‚ irrational and unconstitutional.
James Selfe‚ the party’s federal executive chairperson‚ said in the review application that the party is entitled to the reasons before the decision maker, when the decision was taken.
However, “the state has refused to hand over that to us, so this is a compelling application to force the government to hand over the record of the decision to enable us to proceed with the review,” he said.
No official set of reasons was ever given by Zuma as to why he reshuffled his cabinet – which included the firing of former finance minister Pravin Gordhan and his deputy, Mcebisi Jonas.
The presidency has insisted that it is under no obligation to explain the move, as it is the president’s prerogative to choose his cabinet.
However, because of the dire consequences of the move (specifically the South African economy taking a knock, and international ratings agencies cutting the country’s investment rating to junk status), there has been deep concern from several sectors, who are looking for an explanation.
The DA argued that the country continues to feel the impact of Gordhan’s firing, and the decision holds disastrous implications for the country. The party wants the president’s official reasons, so it can push forward with taking on the rationality of the move in court.
The DA’s lawyers said that any decision taken by the president is subject to a review – but a review cannot take place without a record of what informed that decision.
Zuma’s legal representatives argued that the DA was seeking an order based on an administrative decision, which is required to be rational – however, the president’s reshuffle was an executive decisions, which does not carry the same requirements.
Under the Constitution, the president has the power to appoint ministers, and the power to fire them. These are executive decisions, not judicial or administrative ones, the lawyer said, and the president is under no obligations to provide a record for his decisions.
The official reason given by Zuma’s legal team is that the president “used his own political judgement to find the best way to proceed with the mandate to govern, given to him by the ANC”.
Ultimately, Judge Vally ordered that Zuma must hand over record of all documents and electronic records (including correspondence, contracts, memorada, advices, recommendations, evaluations and reports) that relate to the making of the decisions related to the DA’s case.
Reported reasons for the reshuffle
During the fallout of the reshuffle, it was reported that an “intelligence report” was used by Zuma to justify Gordhan’s removal to ANC officials.
The report was said to contain information showing that Gordhan and Jonas were meeting with international parties in a bid to overthrow the state. The report has never been produced, not even to state security officials, and remains a complete unknown.
Another, more plausible, justification for Gordhan’s firing was that the relationship between the former minister and the president had completely broken down, and Zuma could no longer trust or work with Gordhan.
While court proceedings were underway, president Zuma spoke to delegates at the World Economic Forum being held in Durban, explaining his reasons for the reshuffle.
He said that different people have varying views on his recent cabinet reshuffle, but one of the important reasons behind the move was make room for younger people to have a role in government.
In a press statement following the reshuffle, the ANC said that it accepted the reasons Zuma presented to them at a National Working Committee meeting, explaining why he made the changes.