Aurora: Khulubuse Zuma ‘exonerated’

2015-02-15 15:00

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A“private and confidential” report into the Aurora mining debacle has largely exonerated Khulubuse Zuma, saying he “trusted his associates” – which explains his laissez faire approach and lack of control – and “was allegedly also defrauded and lost millions of his personal wealth”.

The report recommends the National Director of Public Prosecutions pursue criminal charges against Aurora director Zondwa Mandela and Pamodzi liquidator Enver Motala, among others.

But the report, authored by Advocate Wayne Gibbs, doesn’t absolve Zuma of financial liability for the disaster that destroyed two gold mines and cost about 5?300 people their jobs.

Gibbs was appointed as commissioner of a 417 inquiry to investigate the collapse of the two Pamodzi mines and to apportion blame for the disaster.

“Although one has sympathy with Zuma?…?this does not exonerate him from his statutory duty,” his report says.

“To my mind, he was negligent in his approach” and the company suffered damages, “which could have been avoided had Zuma personally kept an eye on the management of the company”.

On Thursday, the North Gauteng High Court granted Zuma’s request for a copy of the secret report. However, the master’s office declined to make the report public, saying the court had only ordered that copies be provided to Zuma and the liquidators. But City Press has obtained a leaked copy of the report.

Zuma testified in 2011 that despite being the chair of Aurora, he was “not involved in a single executive decision” of the company and was not informed about what was really happening.

Zuma testified that when he demanded answers, he was told “stories”.

“I don’t know whether it is the truth, because if it was the truth then the company wouldn’t have gone down,” he told the inquiry. “The media told me everything that was going on in my company.”

Zuma and his co-directors will return to court next month when the liquidators of Pamodzi Gold will seek to hold them liable for R1.5?billion in damages under section 424 of the Companies Act.

On Friday, Zuma’s spokesperson, Vuyo Mkhize, said although they had not yet seen the report, Zuma was confident the court would excuse him from any liability in the R1.5?billion claim.

“The advice he has received from his lawyers is that he is on solid ground when it comes to the question of his responsibilities as a director, the remaining point the liquidators are hoping to nail him on,” Mkhize said.

Rudolph du Plessis, a partner at Bowman Gilfillan, told City Press that even if a director was unaware of what was happening in the company, they could still be held financially liable under the Companies Act.

“Whether or not [a director] is directly involved in the wrongdoing is irrelevant,” Du Plessis said. “If you sit on the board but you’re simply not interested or look the other way and don’t know what is going on, certainly you would be in breach of your duty to act with care, skill and diligence.”

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