The justice department fired Aurora liquidators Enver Motala and Gavin Gainsford to “safeguard the integrity of the liquidation process”, its spokesman said on Tuesday.
However, Motala labelled their dismissal as “unconstitutional, unlawful and frightening” and threatened to challenge it in the high court.
Justice spokesman Tlali Tlali said the decision to remove the pair as liquidators was based on several factors.
“What is important is to safeguard the integrity of the liquidation process and the interests of the company, workers and creditors,” Tlali said in an SMS after being asked to confirm their removal, as was reported by Solidarity on Monday.
“We invoked provisions of the Companies Act and requested them to participate in the Section 381 inquiry, a process to which they failed and/or refused to co-operate in.
“Based on this and other information at our disposal, we took a decision to relieve them of their responsibilities as provisional liquidators,” said Tlali.
Motala and Gainsford were part of a group of six liquidators jointly appointed to manage the assets of Pamodzi Gold mines in Springs, on the East Rand, and Orkney in North West.
The liquidators let Aurora Empowerment Systems - which is headed by former president Nelson Mandela's grandson Zondwa, and President Jacob Zuma's nephew, Khulubuse - make a bid for the mine, but Aurora failed to pay miners and reports emerged of the mine's assets being stripped.
One of the miners committed suicide in Orkney earlier this year after being left penniless.
The saga has dragged on since Pamodzi went into liquidation in 2009, with the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) openly criticising the two politically-connected directors, one of whom donated election money to the African National Congress while Aurora workers were living in abject poverty.
Motala charged on Tuesday that the decision to remove him and Gainsford could derail the entire process, adding that potential Chinese investor Shandong Gold had arrived in the country this week to inspect the mines.
“What is most shocking, is senior officials from the Master's office took this decision to remove us. It's completely unconstitutional, completely irregular and totally unlawful... it's frightening what the Master's office did,” Motala said.
He said they were not given any reasons for the decision, or told who had complained about them to the Master's office.
“We are approaching the high court... we are meeting with our legal counsel this morning,” said Motala.
He said he received a “two-line” letter on Monday to inform him that he and Gainsford had been removed as liquidators.
“It's a two-line letter Ä 'The Master considers you two no longer suitable to act in this estate'. We suspect this was planned. We don't know who the forces behind this thing are... I'm not saying it is politically motivated, but it could be. There may be people hostile to this deal.”
In April, Motala said Aurora had been warned to produce proof of irreversible financial commitment by the Chinese investor or face the cancellation of its bid for Pamodzi by the end of May.
The main creditors in the case are the Industrial Development Corporation and the Unicredit bank from Munich in Germany.
A high court gave Aurora until August 16 to produce funding guarantees.
In a separate case, Solidarity served a liquidation application amounting to R3.1 million on Aurora last Friday to force the mining company to pay outstanding salaries or close its doors.
Aurora has until May 31 to oppose that application and if the company does not oppose the action, the matter will be heard in the High Court in Pretoria on June 7.
Meanwhile, Tlali said Motala and Gainsford were “well within their rights” to challenge their dismissal in court.
“We find it interesting that they intend to go to court on this matter... Once court papers are served on us, we will deal with the substantive issues at that time and in court.” - Sapa
The Master and the other liquidators had better make sure that Motala pays the costs for his urgent court application out of his own pocket and doesn't take the money for it out of what little there is left to scavenge from Aurora's carcase.
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