/ 23 May 2011

Dismissed Aurora liquidator: Chinese think SA’s a joke

The dismissal of Enver Motala from the team overseeing the liquidation of mines controlled by Aurora Empowerment Systems has ruined hopes to sell them to a Chinese company that could have rehabilitated the mines.

After being told he’d been fired on Monday, a fuming Motala said, “The Chinese are packing their bags and leaving. They think it’s a joke the way things are done in this country.”

Chinese company Shangdong Gold was the best hope to buy the mines, and bring them back into operation.

Motala and fellow liquidator Gavin Gainsford, head of the liquidation division at auditing and consulting firm KPMG, were sent letters of removal this morning by the master of the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, six weeks after trade unions Solidarity and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) asked the court to launch an enquiry into the conduct of the liquidators.

Neither Motala nor Gainsford were given reasons for their removal. Motala said they were given notice of their dismissal while the enquiry was still in process, and before he had been given an opportunity to present evidence.

“The master refuses to tell us what this is about,” said Motala. “We said in writing that we would cooperate with them. Instead they took an unlawful decision to remove me and Gainsford. We are the two most senior liquidators in the country.”

He said that he and Gainsford were making an urgent application to find out the reasons behind their removal.

Solidarity spokesperson Gideon du Plessis was also unclear as to the reasons for the removal.

“The master’s office told us that the matter is sub judice, so they can’t say why Motala and Gainsford were fired,” he said.

Solidarity has also served a liquidation application of R3-million on Aurora to pay its debts or shut down. If Aurora does not oppose the application it will be heard in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg on June 7.

Aurora, whose board of directors includes President Jacob Zuma’s nephew Khulubuse Zuma, Zuma’s lawyer Michale Hulley, and Nelson Mandela’s grandson Zondwa Mandela, has been in control of the mines since October 2009.

In March 2010 they came into the spotlight for not paying their workers for months on end. Later in the year, the Mail & Guardian exposed the company for asset-stripping the mines and selling off the resultant scrap metal, which did not belong to the company.