The Middelburg branch of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) adopted a resolution to appoint lawyers to remove the business rescue practitioners of the Gupta family’s Optimum coal mine.
The practitioners, Johan-Louis Klopper and Kurt Knoop, were appointed to run eight Gupta companies on February 20.
The NUM branch’s plan is evidently to replace them with a different pair of practitioners chosen by the branch – Koos van Rensburg and Jacolien Barnard.
Despite this resolution on behalf of 546 Optimum workers, the union’s national headquarters on Monday strenuously denied any knowledge of the plan.
In a statement, the union said it “distances” itself from a City Press report this weekend about the bid to remove Klopper and Knoop.
City Press however has a copy of the resolution adopted by the Middelburg NUM branch under which Optimum falls.
It is signed by branch chair Goodwill Mthombeni and branch secretary Richard Mgugula and dated March 5.
NUM spokesperson Livhuwani Mammburuu admitted on Monday night that the branch leadership had signed the resolution, but said this falls short of actually appointing lawyers.
He however added that the branch leaders Mthombeni and Mgugula had, at first, denied knowing anything at all until City Press brought the resolution to NUM headquarters’ attention.
The resolution reads that the branch appoints Ruann Kruger of Kruger&Co as its attorney.
Kruger has already sent Klopper and Knoop a letter on behalf of NUM members demanding they resign, which City Press reported on Sunday.
Kruger intends to launch a court application to remove the two practitioners on Tuesday.
The NUM branch resolution appoints Kruger “for the purpose of launching and prosecuting an urgent application in the Gauteng North division of the high court in order to appoint Messrs Koos van Rensburg and Ms Jacolien Barnard ... as joint business rescue practitioners”.
It records that Kruger will work on a contingent basis and only receive a fee if he succeeds – and that the new business rescue practitioners will pay the fee.
The opposition to Klopper and Knoop stems from the fact that they were nominated for the job by the Gupta family’s own company managers.
Although this is normal in voluntary business rescue and the Gupta companies’ directors deny previously knowing the rescue practitioners, the NUM resolution claims that Klopper and Knoop were appointed “on instructions from its shareholders” – the Guptas.
It does not cite any specific evidence of this.
In the resolution, the NUM branch says that “the union has a well-grounded belief that the decision to place the company under business rescue is a cynical move on the part of the Gupta family to protect the company against the true creditors thereof while spiriting away its assets”.