Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. Picture: REUTERS
Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. Picture: REUTERS

The High Court in Pretoria has dismissed former finance minister Pravin Gordhan’s application for a declaratory order on whether he could interfere in the relationship between the banks and their clients, calling the application “unnecessary”.

Gordhan approached the court in 2016 for a declaratory order stating that he could not intervene, after being pressured to do so by the Cabinet and the Gupta-linked Oakbay Group. At the time his move was widely interpreted as an attempt to put an end to the lobbying and shine a light on the Guptas’ financial affairs.

Gordhan has since been removed as finance minister.

The high court on Friday ruled that Gordhan’s application be dismissed and that he pay costs for the Oakbay Group only.

In its judgment, a full bench of the high court said it was the duty of the minister, as a member of the national executive, to obey, respect and uphold the law.

“It is not appropriate for a member of the national executive to draw the judiciary into the exercise of his executive functions as evinced in this application,” the court ruled.

“To grant the minister the declaratory relief would allow the judiciary to stray into the exercise of executive functions where the circumstances do not warrant its involvement.”

The court said it held a strong view that the application was unnecessary in the circumstances of the case.

There was no statute that empowered a member of the national executive, such as a minister, to intervene in a private bank-client dispute. The Constitution also did not confer such power, it said.

The Treasury could not be drawn into commenting on the judgment, saying they first needed to consult their legal team.

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