Master blocks release of Aurora report for fear of defamation claims

2014-01-26 06:00

The Master of the High Court has refused to release a damning report into the looting of the Grootvlei and Orkney mines for fear of being sued by the politically connected directors of Aurora Empowerment Systems.

This week, Christine Rossouw, deputy master of the North Gauteng High Court, told City Press she would not make public the report of an inquiry into the collapse of the empowerment deal – in which the mines were allegedly stripped of more than R500 million in assets and saw 5 300 jobs destroyed – which she had appointed in terms of the Companies Act.

The inquiry, held in camera, heard evidence that the directors of Aurora – President Jacob Zuma’s nephew Khulubuse, Nelson Mandela’s grandson Zondwa, Zuma’s legal adviser Michael Hulley and businessman Thulani Ngubane – had presided over the stripping of assets from the two mines, which Aurora scooped in a R1.7 billion empowerment deal.

Its report and recommendations – which insiders say include laying criminal charges against the directors and management – were handed to Rossouw in October.

While the media was denied access to the hearing to protect witnesses, an unsuccessful court application by Ngubane to limit the scope of the Section 417/418 application and stop the inquiry from accessing Aurora’s bank records heard evidence from liquidators that R122 million in gold sales was paid to the directors and their managers, including Faizel Bhana and Solly Bhana, while workers and creditors were not paid.

The liquidators are also pursuing the directors in their individual capacities, with an application set down for August.

Rossouw said while she did not suggest the matter was privileged, she was not willing to release it and face potential defamation action.

“The report makes credibility findings against witnesses, makes ‘findings’ of fact that are prejudicial to witnesses and other persons referred to in testimony and recommends a course of action to be taken. The report will be potentially defamatory of persons referred to ... if the master released the report to the press, know that the press will in turn publish it, the master may well become the defendant in a series of defamation action(s),’’ she said.

Rossouw said she had also been advised not to make the recommendations public before taking the action the inquiry suggested.

She said the inquiry was “not an adversary process in terms whereof both sides of any story could have been properly ventilated,’’ and that it would be “most unfair’’ to release a report “based on matters where potential defendants and respondents have not had an opportunity to put forward their side of the story”.

Rossouw did not elaborate on when a decision would be taken on the recommendations.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.