Carte Blanche seeks access to Aurora case

2011-08-17 11:17
Johannesburg - Current affairs programme Carte Blanche is applying to the North Gauteng High Court for access to the inquiry into Aurora Empowerment Systems' conduct while managing Pamodzi Gold's assets.

M-Net's Carte Blanche will apply for permission to record and broadcast the testimony of certain, not all, witnesses, according to its heads of argument filed in court.

The Master of the Court has ordered an inquiry into Aurora's management of the Grootvlei and Orkney gold mines in terms of sections 417 and 418 of the Companies Act 61 of 1973.

Carte Blanche initially wanted access to all proceedings, but this was opposed by the liquidators.

Carte Blanche in response had narrowed the scope of the access it was applying for, and now only wanted to record and broadcast the testimony of the directors of Aurora.

Politically connected

These include the politically connected Zondwa Mandela, grandson of former president Nelson Mandela, Khulubuse Zuma, President Jacob Zuma's nephew, and Michael Hulley, Zuma's former lawyer.

The Companies Act provides for inquiries of this nature to be private and confidential unless the Master of the Court decides otherwise, although in practice companies have to apply for the matter to be held behind closed doors.

"It is consistent with the constitutional value of openness and the media’s right to freedom of expression that secrecy not be the default position and that a fully motivated application for secrecy ought, instead, to be required," according to the heads of argument.

"It's not an all or nothing game: the relief Carte Blanche seeks at once vindicates the public's right to know, while preserving the integrity of the inquiry," said M-Net attorney Dario Milo of Webber Wentzel.

"This it does by undertaking not to broadcast the evidence of any of the directors of Aurora, before the others have completed their evidence.

"It is about the best way to weigh competing interests," he said in an e-mailed response to a question.

The relevant testimony which Carte Blanche wants to record was due to start next Tuesday, August 23.

Aurora, which was singled out as the preferred bidder for Pamodzi's mines when they went into liquidation in 2009, had since had its management contract cancelled and vacated the premises.

Aurora had been accused of the destruction of infrastructure at the mines and the loss of more than 5 300 jobs.

Trade union Solidarity had brought an application to have Aurora liquidated as part of its claim for R3.1m in unpaid wages to workers at the two mines.

In the meantime, China Africa Precious Metals has agreed to buy the Pamodzi Orkney gold mine for R150m subject to conditions, the mine's provisional liquidators and the company said two weeks ago.

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