The influential family was waiting for the right time to strike back, and it seems it was worth the wait. Gupta owned Saraha Computers filed papers in the North Gauteng High Court on Monday, disputing that the state attorney can represent Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and seeking the minister to pay costs in his personal capacity.
The latest affidavit filed on Monday follows news that President Jacob Zuma on Monday ordered Gordhan to return from London, where he had started an investor roadshow following his 2017 Budget.
The rand buckled following the news, plunging from R12.31/$ in morning trade to R12.63/$ by 13:00 on Monday.
Treasury explained on Saturday that Gordhan was not required to attend court as only his legal representative was required.
However, Sahara on Monday disputed this in court papers, calling on the state attorney to “establish its authority to act”.
Various affidavits and letters regarding the argument of representation are contained in Monday’s affidavit.
One reveals that the date of the initial court papers challenging Gordhan’s absence was dated 17 March 2017. Another reveals the state attorney response on 24 March 2016.
Here, the attorney argues that Sahara was beyond the 10-day limit that a respondent has to counter such a move. The state attorney said it was made clear in the 14 October 2016 papers that Gordhan intended to be represented by the state attorney.
“Should the Rule 7 notice be persisted at this late stage, this will prejudice the applicant (Gordhan), the other parties and the hearing date…, undermine the interest of justice, and infringe the applicant’s right of access to court,” the state attorney wrote.
However, Stein Scop Attorneys – who replaced Gert van der Merwe as the Guptas’ attorney of record on 16 March – wrote to the state attorney on 25 March 2017, saying this was not the case.
“As you are aware, any party may challenge the authority of an attorney acting for another at any time before judgment,” BA Scop wrote.
Scop gave the state attorney until 16:00 on Sunday 26 March 2017 to withdraw as the legal representative.
“Should we not hear from you at that time, we will assume that you require a formal application to be brought, and will do so seeking to recover costs from your client in his personal capacity.”
Political analyst Daniel Silke said Zuma has in recent weeks been more forthright on issues of policy such as land expropriation.
“It may be that the president wishes to exert a similar authority over these ministers at a time when issues surrounding the Guptas’ return to public view via the courts,” he said.