The court case against four former directors of Aurora Empowerment Systems for alleged environmental damages was again postponed on Monday to allow their defence teams to make representations against the proceedings being broadcast to the public.
Three of the accused - Khulubuse Zuma, Zondwa Mandela and Thulani Ngubane - appeared briefly in in the Springs Regional Court with their legal teams on Monday.
Zuma, the nephew of ex-president Jacob Zuma, was Aurora's former chair. Mandela, late president Nelson Mandela’s grandson, was the mining group's ex-managing director.
The fourth accused, former executive Raja Zainal Alam Shah, did not appear in court. The case had already been postponed in May to try and locate him. According to the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa), he is based in Malaysia.
The four accused are facing five charges, including water pollution, failure to comply with a compliance notice, unlawful use of water, acting detrimentally to affect water supply, and failure to comply with conditions of water usage at the Grootvlei gold mine near Springs, Gauteng.
On Monday news channel eNCA requested to film the proceedings. Lawyers for Zuma, Mandela and Ngubane objected. Magistrate Nkhensani Moila ruled that they will have an opportunity to state their reasons for opposing the broadcast. An order will be handed down on August 7. The state does not object to the case being filmed.
The Pamodzi gold mines, which also included a facility in Orkney in the North West, came under Aurora’s control in 2009 after they had been placed under provisional liquidation.
In bid letters Aurora claimed to have funding and experience in mining. But the mines soon collapsed. The four accused were blamed by trade unions for the selling off the mine's equipment and failing to pay 5 300 workers their salaries, leaving thousands of dependents destitute.
'Aurora Directors Must Pay'
A small group of supporters affiliated to Outa held up placards outside the court, demanding ‘Auroa Directors Must Pay’.
Outa, who had pushed the National Prosecuting Authority for several years to take up the case, welcomed the postponement.
“It’s important for the media to broadcast the proceedings… we have waited a long time for these accused to be before the court. I think it will be a win for civil society and the public for this to be broadcast, chief legal officer at Outa Stephanie Fick told Fin24.
The Pretoria High Court in June found the former Auroa directors responsible in their personal capacity and liable for R1.7bn in damages. It also found the company had lied about its finances and its experience in mining.
A provisional liquidation order was granted against Zuma in the Durban High Court in January for R1.4bn that he personally owed to creditors.
Zuma and the other accused declined to comment outside the courtroom.