Trade union Solidarity has announced that approximately 300 of the 5 300 former employees of Aurora Empowerment Systems will begin to receive partial payments this week.
“These funds form part their overdue salaries which will be paid out after an eight-year legal battle against the former Aurora directors,” says Solidarity General Secretary Gideon du Plessis.
This follows after Aurora Empowerment Systems was appointed by the Pamodzi liquidators in October 2009 to manage the mines of Pamodzi Gold that had been placed under provisional liquidation.
According to Du Plessis, this resulted in the 5 300 employees employed by Aurora, to start receiving their salaries late or receiving only part of their salaries or not receiving any salary at all, since December 2009.
“Aurora was finally liquidated in October 2010 and since then, Solidarity, together with the liquidators, has been trying to recover the workers’ overdue salaries and to hold the former Aurora directors responsible for the total destruction of the mine assets,” Du Plessis says.
According to Du Plessis, the Aurora directors, which included Khulubuse Zuma, former president Jacob Zuma’s nephew, Zondwa Mandela, former president Nelson Mandela’s grandson, Thulani Ngubani, Solly Bhana and Fazel Bhana, managed to delay all legal procedures instituted against them for a number of years.
“Fortunately, after a legal battle that lasted for years, the first breakthrough finally came on 25 June 2015 in the Gauteng North High Court when Judge Eberhard Bertelsmann found the Aurora directors guilty in their personal capacity,” explains Du Plessis.
Du Plessis put the Aurora directors’ purloining into perspective as follows:
“Between 2009 and 2010, damages of R1,7 billion were inflicted on the mine’s assets, and gold to the value of R122 million was sold by Aurora without any indication of this return of sale.
“A huge amount of R35 million was paid to family members of the Aurora directors and indicated as the repayment of loans. However, no evidence exists that this money was ever borrowed,” Du Plessis says.
Du Plessis added that pension fund payments, employee taxes and UIF payments to the value of millions of rand had been deducted from employees’ salaries but that this money also disappeared.
“Thousands of kilolitres of untreated acid mine drainage were pumped into the Blesbok Spruit and almost no service providers, including Eskom and local municipalities, were paid.”
According to Du Plessis, Aurora was not registered with any statutory institution.
“All clauses of the trade agreement concluded with the liquidators have been violated. No applicable legislation or regulation have been complied with, and all applications filed in the High Court to oppose liquidation were accompanied by perjury and fraud.”
Du Plessis added that no salary repayment agreement concluded with Solidarity has been honoured.
“Court orders about several gross offenses were ignored and fraud to the value of R5,3 million has been committed with the purchase of shares, while a R13 million advance from an investor was embezzled. Several settlement agreements for repayment were reached with the Aurora directors, but they continuously failed to comply with the agreements.”
According to Du Plessis, enough money was eventually collected to pay a portion of the employees’ outstanding salary claims.
“Unfortunately, according to the Insolvency Act, a maximum of R28 000 can be paid to an employee as preferential claimant, regardless of the magnitude of the claim. Many of the submitted claims were also provisionally rejected due to a lack of supporting evidence.
“However, 300 claims have already been approved, and the employees will receive their payments as from today. There will be a second opportunity for former Aurora employees to complete and submit their outstanding claims, until the end of September 2018.”
Du Plessis states that all the former Aurora directors still fail to comply with the revised repayment agreements.
A court application will be filed in September 2018 to sequestrate all the directors.
“After eight years of hardship, the first payments and sequestration of the Aurora directors are a victory for justice for every employee, but the pain and suffering has been so great that it is a hollow victory,” concludes Du Plessis.