Aurora directors accused of stalling

Khulubuse Zuma, Aurora director

[] — THE directors of Aurora Empowerment Systems are allegedly delaying the Master’s inquiry into their management of Pamodzi Gold’s assets, the joint provisional liquidators said on Monday.

“As a result of the… conduct of the Aurora directors and their related consultant witnesses, the probability exists that the inquiry will be delayed at the cost of the insolvent estates and to the detriment of its creditors,” the liquidators said in a statement.

The politically connected Zondwa Mandela, grandson of former president Nelson Mandela, and President Jacob Zuma’s nephew Khulubuse Zuma, were summoned to appear before the inquiry.

Aurora’s commercial director Thulani Ngubani, and consultants Yaseen Theba, Solly Bhana and Faizel Bhana were also summoned.

“None of the witnesses, despite the terms of the summons, produced or tendered any documents whatsoever to the commissioner of the inquiry,” the liquidators said.

Their testimony was postponed so they could produce the necessary documents. They were warned the delay could add costs to the proceedings.

The witnesses and their attorney Ahmed Amod undertook to deliver the required documents to attorneys acting for the liquidators by September 15, 2011.

“These undertakings were aimed specifically at avoiding further delays in concluding the witness testimony, to avoid incurring unnecessary costs by all parties and to bring the matter to finality as soon as possible.”

However, the liquidators said this was not done.

“Despite respectful demand, they have persisted in their failure to adhere to these, their own, undertakings.”

The liquidators said they were severely disappointed about the way the witnesses had “apparently disregarded the due process of law in, what can only be considered as, an attempt to delay the conclusion of the Master’s investigation into this matter”.

The liquidators said they had reserved their rights, including the right to lay criminal charges against the witnesses.

The Master of the Court has ordered an inquiry, in terms of sections 417 and 418 of the Companies Act, into the affairs of the Pamodzi Group.

The inquiry includes the estate’s dealings with Aurora, which was managing the Grootvlei and Orkney gold mines.

Aurora, which was singled out as the preferred bidder for Pamodzi’s mines when they went into liquidation in 2009, had since had its management contract cancelled and vacated the premises.

Aurora had been accused of destroying infrastructure at the mines and causing the loss of more than 5300 jobs.

Meanwhile, trade union Solidarity has brought an application to have Aurora liquidated as part of its claim for R3.1m in unpaid wages to workers at the two mines.

On Monday, Solidarity deputy general secretary Gideon du Plessis said a new development could fast-track its application for an insolvency inquiry.

Last week, the High Court in Pretoria granted a provisional liquidation order to Nelesco, another of the creditors of Kaunda Global Mining Resources, trading as Aurora Gold East Rand and Aurora Gold Orkney.

“What it means to us now is that we can immediately ask for an insolvency inquiry to take place,” Du Plessis said via telephone.

The 5,300 employees at Aurora were directly employed by Kaunda Global Mining Resources, of which the sole director is Zondwa Mandela.

The final liquidation of Kaunda was expected to be confirmed on November 1, Du Plessis said.

“If Aurora doesn’t pay that creditor by 1 November they will go into final liquidation,”

He said the trade union was urgently talking to the newly appointed liquidators of Kaunda to ensure a parallel insolvency inquiry would take place to find out what happened to employees’ money.

“Mandela has to explain during the insolvency questioning, which is likely to follow on the liquidation order, to account for the thousands of rand deducted from thousands of former Aurora employees’ salaries.”

Du Plessis said it was unlikely that the former employees would be paid their outstanding salaries.

The union wanted to know what had happened and to ensure those responsible for destruction at the mines were taken to task.