Johannesburg - While the directors of the liquidated Aurora Empowerment Systems are expected to ask the North Gauteng High Court to postpone the hearing into the multibillion-rand lawsuit against the firm’s insolvent estate today, workers continue to live on hand-outs.
A postponement would allow Aurora’s legal team sufficient time to respond to the papers of the joint liquidators, but labour unions are opposed to the delay, saying it was frustrating after a five-year wait for justice.
The matter was scheduled before Judge Eberhard Bertelsmann yesterday and was postponed to 10am today.
Aurora’s joint liquidators – Johan Engelbrecht, Deon Botha, Allan Pellow and Barend Petersen – have claimed R1.7 billion against the company’s insolvent estate.
They want the company’s directors to be held liable in a personal capacity to recover the proceeds after they allegedly misled the liquidators, stripped the mines’ assets and pocketed the money.
The company also faces an investigation into the disappearance of the proceeds of gold sales worth R120 million, which liquidators said were not accounted for.
About 5 300 former Aurora employees are claiming R3.1m in unpaid wages after working up to six months without pay.
Aurora was named the preferred bidder of Pamodzi Gold’s gold mines, Orkney in the North West and Grootvlei in Springs, after it was liquidated in 2009.
Aurora’s directors include Nelson Mandela’s grandson Zondwa Mandela, and President Jacob Zuma’s nephew Khulubuse Zuma.
Thulani Ngubane, Fazel Bhana and Sulliman Bhana are also directors of the company.
None of the directors appeared in court yesterday.
Sibusisiwe Khumalo, a spokeswoman for Zuma, acknowledged that the affidavits had been submitted late.
Khumalo said Zuma acknowledged he missed the July 30 deadline to submit his affidavit, and did so only yesterday.
Zuma would ask the court for supplementary papers from the joint liquidators, she said.
A stone’s throw away from the court, a group of former Aurora employees waited for food parcels from non-governmental organisation the Gift of the Givers.
Paul Pelembe, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) acting branch secretary in Orkney, said the union rejected the postponement of the case.
The NUM represented 1 200 employees at Aurora, some of whom had died waiting for their monies, Pelembe said.
“We believe the judge will not agree to the total postponement. It has taken five years for us to get to this point; we believe the case must be finalised.”
Speaking on the sidelines of the court proceedings, Gideon du Plessis, the general secretary of trade union Solidarity, said a postponement was temporary relief to Aurora bosses.
“It is a delay tactic and it is frustrating. The workers are not confident that they will get anything after Aurora was liquidated. They want the rule of law and to see that justice is served,” Du Plessis said.
Solidarity represents 163 of the 5 300 employees.
The maximum that each employee can receive from Aurora is R28 000, but the minimum claim is R80 000 each.
“They will have to forfeit their money,” Du Plessis said.
China African Precious Metals has bought the assets of the Orkney gold mine.