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Khulubuse Zuma, Zondwa Mandela expected back in court in mining damage case

Jul 15 2019 05:30
Tehillah Niselow

A court case against the politically connected former directors of Aurora Empowerment Systems, who are accused of causing environmental damage at Grootvlei gold mine in Gauteng, is expected to start in the Springs Regional Court on Monday. 

Senzi Zwane, a researcher at the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse, said the group expects the legal proceedings to begin on Monday after the case was initially postponed in May.

The accused include the former chair of Aurora, Khulubuse Zuma, who is the nephew of ex-president Jacob Zuma, and Aurora's ex-managing director Zondwa Mandela, late president Nelson Mandela’s grandson. The third and forth accused are former executive directors Thulani Ngubane and Raja Zainal Alam Shah. 

The organisation lobbied the National Prosecuting Authority for years to prosecute the former directors. The NPA could not be reached for comment.  

In May, the NPA asked for and was granted an extension to locate Shah, who did not appear in court. According to Outa, he is based in Malaysia and was supposed to provide millions in financing. 

Aurora in October 2009 started to manage certain Pamodzi gold mines which had been placed under provisional liquidation. In bid letters Aurora claimed to have funding and experience in mining. But the mines soon collapsed. 

The four Aurora accused have been accused by trade unions of asset stripping, selling off the mine's equipment and failing to pay 5 300 workers their salaries, leaving thousands of dependents destitute. 

Water pollution

Outa wants the directors to face the music for allegedly contravening environmental regulations which it says led to the pollution of nearby water sources due to acid mine drainage.

“Amongst a number of other charges, the directors are also charged with the unlawful use of water, failing to comply with the conditions attached the water-use license issued by the Department of  Water and Sanitation as well as failing to comply with a compliance notice,” Outa said in May.

The Pretoria High Court in June 2015 found the Aurora directors guilty in their personal capacity and liable for R1.7bn in damages.  

It also found the company had lied about its finances and its experience in mining.

"Aurora was unable to invest in any venture, let alone fulfil the promises to keep the work force of the insolvent mines in employment over the short and medium term or maintain the mining operations of the companies that were in dire financial straits," wrote Judge Eberhard Bertelsmann when he delivered his judgment. 

"It is necessary to observe in this context that not one of the respondents had any personal experience of mining activities."

Meanwhile, a provisional liquidation order was granted against Khulubuse in the Durban High Court in January for R1.4bn that he personally owed to creditors.

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