JOHANNESBURG, March 28 Finance Minister Pravin
Gordhan is set to return to South Africa early on Tuesday after
being ordered home from London by President Jacob Zuma, hours
before a court hearing over the closure of accounts belonging to
friends of the president.
Zuma's order on Monday that Gordhan return "immediately"
from a roadshow for investors in Britain and the United States
has revived talk of a cabinet reshuffle and unnerved investors
who see Gordhan as an emblem of stability. The rand fell more
than 3 percent on Monday while bonds tumbled.
In December, Gordhan asked the High Court to rule he was not
allowed to interfere with decisions by South Africa's major
banks to close business accounts of Oakbay Investments, owned by
brothers Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta and with interests
stretching from technology to media to mining.
Allegations that the Guptas wielded undue influence over
Zuma were investigated last year by the Public Protector, a
constitutionally mandated anti-corruption watchdog. Zuma has
said the Guptas are his friends, but denies there is anything
improper about the relationship.
Gordhan has said the brothers have repeatedly asked him to
intervene to have their accounts reopened.
The finance minister has accused the Gupta brothers of
waging an "organised campaign" against him and Treasury, while
the trio have themselves accused Gordhan of conducting a
vendetta against them and trying to damage their business.
Political analyst Prince Mashele said the sudden summoning
of the finance minister from his overseas trip so close to the
court case pointed to a possible link to the Gupta case.
"The case indirectly involves Zuma because his friends, the
Guptas, are involved," Mashele said.
Between December 2015 and April 2016, FirstRand,
Standard Bank, Nedbank and Barclays Africa
terminated the accounts of companies controlled by the
brothers. The banks are also party to the court hearings.
In its affidavit supporting Gordhan's application, Standard
Bank asked the court to prevent the government from further
intervening in its decision to terminate its relations with
The state attorney confirmed Zuma would be represented in
the case as an interested party.
($1 = 12.7595 rand)
(Reporting by Mfuneko Toyana; Editing by James Macharia and