There may be around 3,000 registered individual liquidators in South Africa, but somehow, a literal handful have a canny way of being appointed to the very biggest cases, where liquidator’s fees can run to R100m and more. Such is the recent case of Pamodzi Gold, where Enver Motala of SBT Trust, Alan Pellow of Westrust and Deon Botha of Corporate Liquidators were appointed as three of the provisional liquidators.
This is another big gig, with potential fees for liquidator running to R100m and beyond. There are no minimum requirements for registration as a liquidator, not even a basic literacy test, yet the cream of this so-called profession are among the highest paid individuals in the country. They waltz around with a coterie of favoured sidekicks and – of course – lawyers.
The roots in this story are growing ever-deeper. Picture a scene in early August 2009, at a creditor’s meeting at a venue in Gauteng, where creditors to a big property company, placed in provisional liquidation, are proving up their claims. Motala arrives, apparently in his personal capacity, along with his brother, and four others. These guys mean business.
One is Leon Lategan, an erstwhile long-time senior employee in the Pretoria Masters Office, the branch of the judicial system responsible for appointing liquidators to any given case. For some years now Lategan has worked under the Motala umbrella. Chris Edeling, an erstwhile advocate, is also there. Then there is Stan Rothbart, a practicing attorney, and longstanding personal representative of Motala.
Finally, Stephan du Toit, a practicing senior counsel advocate, who also acts personally for Motala, and somehow appears in many cases where Motala is a liquidator. It turns out that Motala is submitting creditor’s claims of no less than 170 “casual” employees of the construction company.
If these claims are accepted, then Motala will be appointed as a liquidator to the case. This is another big one; Philken, the beleagured construction company, owes one bank, alone, R550m, and that is only the start of it. Certain events that we need not go into here transpired. The bottom line is that Motala and his team departed, empty handed.
This is a story but few have heard of, but Motala has meanwhile cranked up the attention on his illustrious activities by making lots of noise around the Pamodzi Gold debacle. Motala first rode the high horse early this century by rising to prominence in and around the R1bn RAG bankruptcy, where the name of Penuell Maduna, justice minister at the time, was mentioned more than once.
Sadly, Motala had not been appointed as an original liquidator to RAG. In one of the many court cases spawned by that ugly story the Durban High Court noted evidence presented by Jeremy Gauntlett, senior counsel: “Uniquely, [Maduna] also sought the appointment of [Motala] – and only [Motala] – as a liquidator. [Maduna] . . . proceeded to appoint [Lategan], an additional Master in Pretoria, as a Master in this province [KwaZulu Natal] for the purposes of this liquidation, and this liquidation only”. Motala was appointed an additional liquidator to RAG.
In the bankruptcy of MP Finance, more popularly known as Krion, a R1.7bn Ponzi scheme, four liquidators were originally appointed in August 2002. On January 6, 2004, Lategan appointed two further Krion liquidators. One of them was, of course, Motala. And so it goes.
In October 2003, Mike Tshishonga, then MD of the Master’s Office, publicly launched a raft of accusations against his political boss, Maduna. Tshishonga accused Maduna of attempting to provide “illicit favours for his close friend and confidant,” Motala. However, Tshishonga also emphasized that Motala was not the sole abnormal beneficiary of an industry “littered with examples of nepotism and corruption.” Those were the days, all right. For rookies, welcome to the rose-tinted world of South Africa’s liquidations sector, the very conscience of the country’s constitution.