About 300 of the 5 300 former employees of Aurora Empowerment Systems will finally start receiving partial payments this week after a legal battle of more than eight years.
Trade union Solidarity’s general secretary Gideon du Plessis welcomed this, but said the hardship, pain and suffering of Aurora’s former employees had been so great that it was a hollow victory.
He warned that Solidarity would seek the sequestration of Aurora’s directors next month if they still failed to comply with revised repayment agreements.
Aurora was appointed by the liquidators of Pamodzi Gold to manage Pamodzi’s mines in October 2009, but soon started paying the 5 300 employees either late or partially and, in some instances, not at all.
Aurora was liquidated in October 2010, but the liquidators and Solidarity have been battling ever since to recover workers’ overdue wages and to hold the former Aurora directors responsible for the total destruction of the mining assets.
Du Plessis said Aurora’s directors, including ex-president Jacob Zuma’s nephew Khulubuse Zuma, Nelson Mandela’s grandson Zondwa Mandela, Thulani Ngubani and Solly and Fazel Bhana, managed to delay all legal procedures instituted against them for years.
The first breakthrough came in June 2015, when Judge Eberhard Bertelsmann found the Aurora directors guilty in their personal capacity.
Du Plessis said damages of R1.7 million were inflicted on the mine’s assets between 2009 and 2010 and about R35 million was paid to the Aurora directors’ family members as the repayment of loans without evidence the money was ever borrowed.
Pension fund payments, employee taxes and Unemployment Insurance Fund payments worth millions of rands that had been deducted from employees’ salaries also disappeared.
“Thousands of kilolitres of untreated acid mine water were pumped into the Blesbok Spruit and almost no service providers, including Eskom and local municipalities, were paid,” Du Plessis added.
Enough money was eventually collected to pay a portion of the employees’ claims, but a maximum of R28 000 could be paid to an employee as preferential claimant in terms of the Insolvency Act.
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