Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane has filed an affidavit which, in effect, supports the bid by the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) to freeze the R1.75 billion rehabilitation funds of two coal mines belonging to the Guptas.
The minister and the India-based Bank of Baroda have filed notices that they would abide by the court’s decision in the ongoing battle between Outa and the Guptas about the rehabilitation trust funds of the Gupta-owned Optimum and Koornfontein coal mines.
Zwane filed an explanatory affidavit in which he supported Outa’s stance that the rehabilitation funds should be protected.
He said it had always been the department’s view that financial provisions for rehabilitating the environment had to be properly secured and used solely for its designated purposes.
He echoed Outa’s submission that the rehabilitation funds relating to the two Gupta coal mines could not, in terms of the Mineral Resources Development Act and the National Environmental Management Act, be used for any purpose other than the rehabilitation of the environment after the mines closed.
The trustees of two mines have given notice of their intention to oppose an application by Outa to freeze the R1.75 billion mine rehabilitation funds and to keep the assets out of the hands of the present trustees and the Gupta family.
Outa obtained an urgent interim order in the High Court in Pretoria last month, freezing the rehabilitation trust funds of the two mines held with Bank of Baroda and stopping the trustees from dealing with or removing the funds from SA. This was pending a hearing on the merits of the application on December 7 and 8.
Outa obtained the order shortly after the Guptas lost an urgent application to stop Bank of Baroda from closing their bank accounts.
The Gupta companies have now applied for leave to appeal against that ruling and brought a further urgent application to keep their accounts open.
Judgment is expected in the application early next week, but the court ordered Bank of Baroda to keep the Gupta companies’ bank accounts operational until then.
Outa chief operating officer Ben Theron said their legal team had prepared a strong case to keep the rehabilitation funds frozen to ensure that the funds landed up in the right hands and were used for the sole purpose of restoring the environment.
He said the fight was far from over as they ultimately wanted to ensure that the Gupta family and those responsible for state capture were held accountable.