Minework­ers want Gupta busi­ness res­cue prac­ti­tion­ers out

The Sunday Independent - - News - BALD­WIN NDABA

A GROW­ING num­ber of minework­ers are com­ing out in sup­port of court ap­pli­ca­tions for the re­moval of Louis Klop­per and Kurt Knoop as busi­ness res­cue prac­ti­tion­ers in eight Gupta-owned mines.

The group of 28 minework­ers at Shiva Ura­nium Mine in Hart­beest­fontein out­side Klerks­dorp in the North West had filed af­fi­davits in April de­tail­ing their con­cerns about the pair. Fol­low­ing that, Klop­per and Knoop re­signed as busi­ness res­cue prac­ti­tion­ers for Shiva Mine on Thurs­day. This group of work­ers had sup­ported an ini­tial ap­pli­ca­tion filed by the In­dus­trial De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (IDC), Shiva’s largest cred­i­tor.

Mohseen Mayet, lawyer for the Shiva minework­ers, told The Sun­day In­de­pen­dent that Shiva Mine had a to­tal of 205 staff, in­clud­ing man­age­ment, but that 28 had cho­sen to file af­fi­davits.

“The ap­pli­ca­tion was made up of 28 ap­pli­cants in to­tal as at the date of is­sue. The ap­pli­ca­tion was also sup­ported by the Shiva Branch Com­mit­tee chair­per­son of the Na­tional Union of Minework­ers.

“This num­ber would have been sig­nif­i­cantly greater, but many em­ploy­ees feared be­ing vic­timised and felt that their job se­cu­rity was at stake if they were to pub­licly an­nounce their sup­port for the re­moval of the pair,” Mayet said.

He said their in­volve­ment in the lit­i­ga­tion was prompted by a de­sire for their con­cerns to be ad­dressed by the in­cum­bent own­ers and po­ten­tial buy­ers.

“They want to par­tic­i­pate in the busi­ness res­cue process, which they are en­ti­tled to do. They are con­fi­dent that their par­tic­i­pa­tion and the ap­point­ment of an in­de­pen­dent busi­ness res­cue prac­ti­tioner, along­side Mr Cloete Murray, who is the IDC’s ap­point­ment, will safe­guard the wel­fare of the em­ploy­ees and en­sure that the com­pany is res­cued,” Mayet ex­plained.

He said the minework­ers were happy that the two were re­moved, but were of the view that crim­i­nal ac­tion should be taken against them.

“They are adamant that such con­duct must be in­ves­ti­gated by the rel­e­vant statu­tory bod­ies with­out de­lay,” Mayet said.

The IDC has also vowed to en­sure that Shiva Ura­nium Mine pays its cred­i­tors, par­tic­u­larly small and medium en­ter­prises. be­fore a de­ci­sion to sell the mine is taken. IDC cor­po­rate af­fairs head Zama Luthuli said his com­pany was con­fi­dent that the newly-ap­pointed busi­ness res­cue prac­ti­tion­ers would help them find a last­ing so­lu­tion that would take into ac­count the sav­ing of jobs and the “re­im­burse­ment of other cred­i­tors which, in a min­ing op­er­a­tion, are usu­ally small and medium en­ter­prises”.

“As a re­spon­si­ble in­vestor, it should be noted that the IDC has an obli­ga­tion to re­cover its ex­po­sure in Shiva. As such, the cor­po­ra­tion will use the ap­pro­pri­ate le­gal av­enue avail­able to achieve this ob­jec­tive,” Luthuli said.

Now, minework­ers at Op­ti­mum Mine, one of the Gupta-owned mines, have be­come the lat­est to join the lit­i­ga­tion against the two, in­clud­ing chal­leng­ing the le­gal­ity of their ap­point­ment as busi­ness res­cue prac­ti­tion­ers.

Ini­tially, th­ese minework­ers wanted to lodge a sep­a­rate ap­pli­ca­tion in their bid to save their jobs but chose to sup­port a sim­i­lar ap­pli­ca­tion filed by Andile Qaku of Deriko Min­ing Ex­plo­ration.

Qaku filed pa­pers in the High Court in Pre­to­ria ar­gu­ing that the ap­point­ments of Klop­per and Knoop were flawed with ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties and should be set aside.

He said the di­rec­tors of Op­ti­mum Mine chose to place the mine un­der busi­ness res­cue, two hours af­ter a liq­ui­da­tion ap­pli­ca­tion was filed against the mine.

“There is no rea­son to be­lieve the di­rec­tor of Op­ti­mum Mine was not aware of this fact when he filed for busi­ness res­cue. There was a liq­ui­da­tion ap­pli­ca­tion pend­ing against Op­ti­mum at the time of the fil­ing of the res­o­lu­tion pur­port­ing to com­mence busi­ness res­cue, and the fil­ing of the res­o­lu­tion was im­per­mis­si­ble, and is a pro­ce­du­rally un­law­ful step,” Qaku said.

He fur­ther said: “In ad­di­tion, an ap­pli­ca­tion for pay­ment of a par­tic­u­lar amount of money, al­ter­na­tively the liq­ui­da­tion of Op­ti­mum, was is­sued in the Mpumalanga divi­sion of the High Court at Mid­del­burg on Fe­bru­ary 8, 2018, some two weeks prior to both the ini­tial ap­pli­ca­tion and the res­o­lu­tion com­plained of herein com­ing into be­ing,” Qaku said.

Qaku and the minework­ers’ ap­pli­ca­tion is set down for trial in Septem­ber.

This num­ber would have been greater, but many em­ploy­ees feared be­ing vic­timised and their jobs put at risk if they were to sup­port the re­moval of Knoop and Klop­per

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