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Photo: A Verdade
The loss of more than 3,000 permanent jobs and thousands of other seasonal jobs in the Mafambisse sugar mill may be imminent, @Verdade reports, following financial scandals in which the main shareholder, the South African company Tongaat Hulett, has accumulated bank debts of R11 billion.
“All they are doing is taking the raw material, cutting the sugar cane, carrying it to the factory to process and not taking care of the planting, which has stopped being watered, They cut and abandon: they do not want this,” the Secretary of the Trade Union Committee of the company in which the Mozambican state is a minority shareholder told @Verdade.
At the end of May, the management of Tongaat Hulett told its shareholders at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, in South Africa, that its audited report and accounts for the 2018 financial year needed “to be restated,” as they did not reflect the situation financially.
The South African press reports that, since 2015, Tongaat Hulett shares have fallen from 173 Rands to 53.17 Rands (at the beginning of 2019) and were priced at 13.50 rand before being suspended from the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and their secondary market, the London Stock Exchange, in the United Kingdom. The company owes a total of 11 billion rand to various banks.
A number of top company executives have resigned, including the chief executive officer of the Tongaat Hulett Group, Peter Staude, and Chief Finance Officer Murray Munro. @Verdade has learned that Rosário Cumbi, the person in charge of the company’s operation in Mozambique, is also expected to resign soon.
@Verdade approached the prime minister last Wednesday (June 12) to ask if the Government of Mozambique was aware of the situation and its implications for the investments of the company, which holds 85 percent of the Mafambisse sugar mill and 88 percent of Xinavane Sugarcane in Mozambique.
Carlos Agostinho do Rosario revealed that he did not know particulars of the situation and suggested contacting Minister of Industry and Commerce Rangendra de Sousa, who, when asked, said “We will speak at another time”.
“When they arrived the fields were alive, and we wondered why they are now cutting out the plantation?”
@Verdade has learned that executive managing director at the Mafambisse sugar mill, Sérgio Zandamela, and Executive Director of Human Resources, Felizarda, have met workers since last week to prepare them for the possible closure of the factory.
“Since May, all they are doing is taking the raw material, cutting the sugar cane, carrying it to the factory to process and not taking care of the planting, which has stopped being watered, They cut and abandon: they do not want this,” union leader and employee of the company since 1995 Antonio Bassopa says.
After a meeting this Tuesday morning, which is scheduled to be followed up on in the next few days, Bassopa said that the representatives of the owners “said they wanted to close down, but we told them that they cannot close down, they can only leave. It makes no sense for someone to close the factory and destroy the plantation”.
“We told them that, if they want to leave the factory, they must not cut [the cane] and stop treating the plantation, because [then] another investor may not want it. We reminded them that when they arrived at the ‘Açucareira’ [sugar mill] it had just been rehabilitated with funds from the African Development Bank, and we had all the equipment: tractors, machinery to move land, buses. When they arrived the fields were alive, and we wondered why it is that now, in the hour of departure, that they are running the plantation down,” the secretary of the Trade Union Committee said.
Bassopa said the Trade Union Committee has warned the Mafambisse Sugar management against “hiring of Zimbabwean workers on high wages, who have started up sub-contracting firms, bringing in their families and the machinery they hire out”.
António Bassopa told @Verdade that the government, an Açucareira shareholder, seemed oblivious to the imminent loss of 3,800 permanent and another 4,000 seasonal jobs. “It was kind of weird. We know they’ve been in touch with the governor and the Labour Ministry but they never talked to us. Only yesterday (Monday) did they take us to a meeting in the Dondo District Administrator’s Office.”
By Adérito Caldeira
About The Mafambisse Sugar Mill / Açucareira de Moçambique
The Mafambisse sugar factory, originally built in 1965 e and refurbished at the end of the 1980s at a cost of around US$50 million, is close to the banks of the Púnguè River, in the Dondo district of Sofala province.
In 1996 Tongaat Hulett started managing Mafambisse, in 1998 it bought a 75 percent stake previously owned by the Mozambican state and in 2008 it increased that stake to 85 percent.A Verdade / Macauhub
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