Mineworkers want Gupta business rescue practitioners out
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