Johannesburg - Royal Bafokeng Platinum has won a court order to transfer workers from Aforika Borwa Mining Solutions (ABMS), after terminating its contract with the company, which has links to the Gupta family.
ABMS is an offshoot of Westdawn Investments, the Gupta family’s better-known mining contractor which trades as JIC Mining Services.
Royal Bafokeng recently experienced numerous raids by safety inspectors from the department of mineral resources which resulted in the shutdown of operations at some of its shafts.
The court order, issued by the Johannesburg Labour Court earlier this month, came after the Gupta-linked company initially tried to strike a deal to sell off the company. It followed an urgent court application by Royal Bafokeng and its newly appointed contractor, Reagetswe Rasimone.
According to the order, 1 200 ABMS mine workers are set to become employees of Reagetswe from next year.
Two independent sources allege that ABMS and JIC initially tried to get Royal Bafokeng to pay for the transfer of the workers, claiming that they had spent a fortune training them and, therefore, were entitled to receive compensation.
But both companies were in financial difficulty and merely wanted to get whatever they could from Royal Bafokeng, said a high-placed source within ABMS.
Royal Bafokeng spokesperson Mpueleng Pooe declined to shed light on the matter, except to say that ABMS tried selling the company, but there was no agreement.
“They tabled a proposal to us to acquire their business. That proposal was unacceptable to us,” he said, adding that the company had received a total of 11 section 54 shutdown notices this year – seven of which had been sent over the past six weeks.
“These have been issued within a short space of one another,” said Pooe.
“We have also seen a marked increase in the number of inspectors who come for each visit. Of late, the teams that come here are comprised mainly of inspectors from outside the province.”
He said the tally in production losses because of these closures was unknown, but staff morale had been affected by the continuous raids.
ABMS was contracted to Royal Bafokeng’s Rustenburg Rasimone mining operations until the latter opted not to renew the contract. Royal Bafokeng then experienced several raids by inspectors from the mineral resources department, along with shutdowns – all of which, the mine alleges, was as punishment for cutting ties with the Gupta-linked mine. The department has denied this.
“Yes, Royal Bafokeng’s North shaft was visited by inspectors from the department on November 29,” said Fidel Hadebe, spokesperson for the mineral resources department.
“However, officials also visited other operations at the mine, including Royal Bafokeng’s Styldrift mine; also on November 29, its South shaft on November 30; and its processing plant, also on November 30.”
Hadebe confirmed that Royal Bafokeng was issued with three section 54 notices, within a week, for stoppages.
Hadebe denied there was something sinister about the numerous raids, saying the department was merely concerned about safety in the industry and pointing out that other mines were also visited.
“The mineral resources department will never abuse its position as a regulator by targeting a mining company. This role is taken far too seriously by the minister.”
Almost immediately after the court order was granted earlier this month, two more section 54 notices were issued against Royal Bafokeng’s North and South shafts, upping the tally to five closures within two weeks.
When asked what was found to be remiss on the day of the court order that was not found a week before or on previous visits, Hadebe said: “I am not in a position to disclose what was found. We prefer to discuss this confidentially with the affected mine or section thereof.”
Questions sent to ABMS and JIC were unanswered at the time of going to print.
ABMS has as one of its two directors Pushpaveni Govender, who is also a director of the Guptas’ flagship Sahara Computers and Optimum Coal Mine, as well as of VR Laser Services, which is co-owned by Gupta associate Salim Essa.
ABMS’s only other director is Louise Becker, who is also a director of Craysure Investments, the entity that co-owns VR Laser with Essa.
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