Aurora bosses ‘dumped miners in abject poverty’

Published May 13, 2016

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Johannesburg - Aurora mine bosses Khulubuse Zuma and Zondwa Mandela could face criminal charges and a multimillion-rand lawsuit after they lost an appeal against a high court judgment that found them personally liable for the collapse of two mines.

However, an unperturbed Zuma remained defiant yesterday, maintaining that he was innocent and that the ruling of the high court in Pretoria which held him and Mandela liable for the collapse of Aurora Mines was wrong.

Read: Zuma, Mandela must pay Aurora workers

The high court had in June last year found that Zuma and Mandela, along with their co-directors - Thulani Ngubane, and father and son Solly Bhana and Fazel Bhana - were to be held personally liable for R1.5 billion damages at Pamodzi Gold Mine. Khulubuse is President Jacob Zuma’s nephew and Zondwa is the grandson of Nelson Mandela.

According to Judge Eberhard Bertelsmann of the high court in Pretoria, all five were reckless and incapable managers whose conduct led to the deterioration and collapse of the two mines.

The Aurora directors made their first failed attempt to appeal that decision in September before the same judge, who predicted then that they had no prospect to succeed in another court.

Yesterday, the directors saw their second bid to be proven innocent dashed after the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in Bloemfontein dismissed their application to set aside the initial ruling made in the high court in Pretoria.

Read: Cosatu thrilled by Aurora ruling

A few hours after the SCA dismissed their second application yesterday, Zuma, through his spokesman Vuyo Mkhize, said he still believed that the initial ruling of the high court “was flawed”.

While Zuma maintained his innocence, two trade unions, Solidarity and Cosatu, welcomed the ruling. In their view, the SCA ruling paved the way for more than 5 300 workers to claim damages from Zuma and his partners.

Solidarity estimated the damages to be worth R1.7bn, while Cosatu has estimated it to be R1.5bn.

Solidarity general secretary Gideon du Plessis said the ruling signalled the end of five years of evading and frustrating the justice system. The judgment, he added, meant that the Aurora directors had to cough up for damages and pay the outstanding salaries of the 5 300 workers without delay.

“Should they fail to do so, they would be sequestrated. More criminal investigations into corruption and gross mismanagement and possible prosecution will follow straightaway,” Du Plessis said.

He hailed the verdict as a major victory for the 5 300 workers”who have been innocently plunged into poverty, and the rule of law has also triumphed”.

Cosatu spokesman Sizwe Pamla expressed a similar view, saying: “We expect them to pay as soon as possible to ensure that the workers get some reprieve from the abject poverty that their irresponsible actions left them in.”

Pamla said Cosatu wanted criminal charges to be instituted against all five of them.

“It is disappointing to see that these young black businessmen decided to join the club of white mining-profiteers, who have exploited black people for years in this country. They did so in the most inhumane, arrogant, crude and vulgar way possible,” Pamla said.

Mkhize said Zuma believed the two unions had misunderstood the initial judgment against him and his partners. Mkhize said the high court did not make any decision that the Aurora partners were liable for amounts claimed by the unions.

He said the court had instructed that the Pamodzi liquidators first conduct an investigation and determine how much they were allowed to recover from Aurora.

“The Supreme Court of Appeal did not make a final decision. There is something else which needs to be done. Pamodzi liquidators seek to prove damages first before any decision can be taken. At the moment there is zero debt,” Mkhize said.

He said Zuma would meet his lawyers next week to determine his next course of action, mainly whether to petition the Constitutional Court or reapply to the SCA. “He (Khulubuse) is still of the view the decision of the high court was flawed,” said Mkhize.

 

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THE STAR

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