Johannesburg - In a final attempt to avoid having to cough up more than R1.7bn for debts of the Aurora gold mine, the Aurora directors have indicated that they plan to petition the Supreme Court of Appeal for leave to appeal, Gideon du Plessis, general secretary of union Solidarity, told Fin24.
On Friday the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria denied the directors of Aurora Empowerment Systems leave to appeal a ruling that they are personally liable for the gold mine's debts.
Khulubuse Zuma, Zondwa Mandela, Thulani Ngubani and Fazel and Solly Bhana applied for leave to appeal against an earlier judgment in terms of which they were held personally liable for the destruction of the Aurora/Pamodzi gold mines that cost 5 300 workers their jobs. Solidarity represents 189 of these workers.
Aurora Empowerment Systems was the parent company appointed by the Pamodzi liquidators to manage the Pamodzi mines in Springs and Orkney. However, in Solidarity's view the directors of the company "destroyed both mines through looting and mismanagement".
According to Du Plessis, some of the former directors have already indicated in their appeal application that neither they nor their families have the financial means to pay the money. If they prove unable to comply with the order, jointly or severally, they could be sequestrated, said Du Plessis.
Du Plessis said that, while the legal team of the liquidators can now apply for an order of execution of the court judgment, the Supreme Court of Appeal would have to rule on the matter if the directors indeed petition that court. He reckoned a ruling could be expected within six weeks.
Du Plessis believed the Aurora directors have a slim chance of success, because the judge in the high court gave substantive reasons for denying their application for leave to appeal.
If the Supreme Court of Appeal dismisses the directors' application, they immediately become liable for payments of up to about R2bn, said Du Plessis. That would be the R1.7bn in terms of the judgment obtained by the liquidators, as well as debt owed to the likes of Eskom (over R100m) and the SA Revenue Service (over R100m).
The next step would then be for their assets to be attached and sold to try and pay the debts. In Du Plessis' view this would probably mean that the former directors will be sequestrated if they cannot settle the debt.
"We are after sequestration, because then the insolvency inquiry and investigation will commence immediately and there will be a forensic audit for all their financial dealings from September 2009 when they took control of Pamodzi," explained Du Plessis.
"We have a strong feeling that some politicians will also be found to be part of these dealings. And if they plead poverty and it is discovered that they actually have a better financial status, then their perjury will be exposed too."
In order to avoid such a forensic audit, the only thing the former directors can do, in Du Plessis' opinion, is to reach an agreement with the liquidators and various creditors. Solidarity has already appointed a lawyer to commence consultations with the various Aurora directors to establish the possibility of a settlement for its members.
Although the average claim of the Solidarity members is R51 000, Du Plessis said they understand that in terms of the relevant legislation, they could only get a maximum of R28 000 each.
"Our hope is to have payment for workers by December, because that would be their sixth Christmas since the start of this corruption saga," said Du Plessis.
"In the meantime we will obviously put pressure on the process to obtain an order for execution to be issued, because then a sheriff can make an inventory of their assets so that they do not try and dispose of them."