Khulubuse Zuma shifts Aurora blameComment on this story
Johannesburg - A major player behind Aurora’s ticking time bomb has disassociated himself from the messy mining affair that has left hundreds of mineworkers destitute and living in squalor.
As liquidators pushed ahead in Pretoria on Monday with a R1.7 billion claim against mining company Aurora Empowerment Systems’ insolvent estate, President Jacob Zuma’s nephew Khulubuse distanced himself from the saga that saw the once-promising mine left to rot, stripped of its assets and flooded by acid mine water.
Aurora Empowerment Systems is the parent company appointed by Pamodzi liquidators to manage the Springs and Orkney mines.
“My role as the director of Aurora was that of a non-executive chairperson. I was therefore not responsible for the day-to-day management and running affairs of Aurora,” said Khulubuse.
The men liquidators should be gunning for, he said, are Nelson Mandela’s grandson Zondwa, Sheshile Thulani Ngubane as well as father and son team Sulliman and Fazel Bhana.
“I reasonably relied on the information relayed to me by them,” he said in an affidavit filed before the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, which he said he still had to amend because information at his lawyers’ disposal was insufficient, necessitating the postponement of the matter.
Judge Eberhard Bertelsmann was expected to rule on the postponement application on Tuesday.
In his lengthy affidavit, Khulubuse has denied claims he and other directors had stripped the mine of its assets and pocketed proceeds from the sale of the gold, placing the blame on zama zamas.
“The allegations that I and the other respondents are guilty of stripping and dissipating assets of the mines and theft of gold are simply incorrect. The loss of Pamodzi assets was simply due to criminal activities and illegal mining by individuals commonly known as zama zamas,” Khulubuse said.
He also distanced himself from the acid mine drainage issue, laying the blame squarely on his co-accused.
“Insofar as the allegations of pollution of mine waters in Blesbokspruit, near the Grootvlei mine, are concerned, I am unable to provide an explanation… I was not, as chairperson of Aurora, responsible for the day-to-day running of the mine. This was the responsibility of Mandela, Ngubane and the Bhanas,” he said.
The toxic, untreated water is hazardous in that it leaks into rivers and streams, posing a danger to people and animals.
In the affidavit, Khulubuse said Aurora was not obliged to undertake or carry out mining operations as it had no permit to operate, and that such a permit had not been transferred to it from the Pamodzi group of companies.
He also said Aurora’s failure to perform well was not due to the directors running the company recklessly or fraudulently.
The firm was driven into bankruptcy by:
* A strike in March 2010 by employees that drove investors to withdraw funding; and
* Being let down by a Malaysian consortium, acting through AM Equity, which reneged on its undertaking to fund Aurora’s business ventures.
Aurora’s directors had requested a postponement because they needed to gather more documents from the liquidators.
Khulubuse said the delay in drafting his affidavit was due to missing pages on founding affidavits by some of the liquidators and other documentation related to the proceedings.
This, he said, made it impossible for his new attorney - appointed in April - to better prepare himself and help draft a concise affidavit.
He said his lawyers had received the relevant documentation - running into thousands of pages and contained in 15 lever-arch files - only between August 1 and 15. As a result, they had not had enough time to peruse them and formulate an informed submission that would replace the current one.
The Star and Sapa