Mandela grandson is Aurora’s scapegoat

2012-01-21 08:37

Zondwa Mandela, a grandson of Nelson Mandela, is likely to be the fall guy for the Aurora debacle.

Aurora Empowerment Systems, which until recently was responsible for operating two mines that belong to the insolvent mining company Pamodzi Gold, is facing a liquidation inquiry to determine whether there are any grounds for fraud and theft charges.

But in his testimony this week, which was held in camera, Aurora chair Khulubuse Zuma apparently exonerated himself.

Zuma’s lawyer, Eddie Claassen, told City Press that Zuma did not want to comment on his testimony, because in terms of the law it was secret.

City Press has spoken to several former employees of Aurora’s mines, who confirmed that both Zuma and fellow Aurora director Michael Hulley were not involved in the day-to-day running of the mine. They also fingered Mandela, Thulani Ngubane and the Bhana family for running the mines into the ground.

Members of the Bhana family were still due to testify. City Press understands that Zuma blames the Bhanas for what happened at Aurora.

Aurora’s financial records, which City Press has seen, suggest strongly that the Bhana family and their associates received payments of at least R1?million from Aurora.

At least four members of the Bhana family had money paid into their personal accounts in October and November of 2009.

The relationship between the Bhanas and the head liquidator of the mines, Enver Motala, will also be scrutinised. Motala faces criminal investigation charges related to a possible conflict of interest in his involvement in the liquidation of Aurora.

He is expected to meet with the police on Monday and a warrant of arrest may be issued if he does not
show up.

In court papers, Christine Roussouw, deputy master of the North Gauteng High Court, said Motala only negotiated with Aurora, an investment company with no mining experience, to take over the liquidated mines and did not investigate other options.

“It appears that what commended Aurora to Motala was the fact that a nephew of President (Jacob) Zuma and a grandson of former president Mandela were among its directors, and that it was in effect run by two friends of Motala, Messrs Faizel and Solly Bhana,” Roussouw said.

Motala has previously denied that he knew the Bhanas before the Aurora deal.

According to sources privy to evidence heard at the in camera inquiries, Zuma fingered Mandela as a mastermind of Aurora, along with the Bhana family and fellow director Ngubane.

Mandela has been ducking and diving the inquiry, and will have to appear before a magistrate on criminal charges.

In November he claimed that he was too ill to testify and that all the documents supporting his testimony had been stolen from his car.

Mandela has another dilemma that will expose him and could send him – alone – straight to jail. His company, Kaunda Global Mining Resources, which managed Aurora, is in final liquidation and he, as sole director, will have to account for its missing millions.

Kaunda ran the mines on behalf of Aurora and was responsible for paying the salaries of workers and managing the pension fund money. The pension fund money, as well as other money in the company, simply disappeared.

The inquiry into Kaunda’s insolvency could eventually lead to criminal charges being laid against Mandela for, among other things, the deductions from employees’ salaries that were not paid to the pension fund.

Mandela did not respond to requests for comment.

Mandela’s fellow director, Ngubane, who was also intrinsically involved in running the mine, will also have to appear before a magistrate on charges of perjury. The inquiry commission was apparently scathing about his testimony, believing it to be full of holes and lies.

But Ngubane denied that he was obstructing the commission, which he said was illegally constituted.

“I was not treated fairly by the commission,” he said this week. “I believed I was as frank as I could be
about Aurora.”

Ngubane has also gone to court to prevent the inquiry from subpoenaing documents – including bank statements and Aurora’s founding documents – and pursuing questioning. He claimed this was beyond the inquiry’s permissible ambit.

So far, Khulubuse Zuma had been the face of Aurora.

The inquiry came after Aurora mines – Grootvlei on the East Rand and Orkney in the North West – failed to pay 2?000 workers wages for the past two years and after evidence emerged that the mines were being asset-stripped.

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