Mozambique: Police commission to investigate Songo accident - Watch
About 3,500 workers at Mafambisse Sugar, in Sofala province, Mozambique, fear they are about to become unemployed. Poor management is blamed for the departure of Tongaat Hulett, the company’s main shareholder.
Mafambisse Sugar employees have been told by the management of the company which owns the plant, South African company Tongaat Hulett, that, at the end of the current sugar processing campaign, it will withdraw from the plant in which it is the largest shareholder.
Mafambisse union secretary António Bassopa said Tongaat Hulett’s withdrawal was linked to low revenue and accumulated debt in Mozambique and South Africa. “They talk about three things … They talk about land problems in South Africa, the Zimbabwean dollar problem, and that of the [Zimbabwean] bond [notes] which depreciated,” all in addition to mismanagement of the Mozambican unit, he says.
Uncertainty and fear
Uncertainty among the plant’s approximately 3,500 workers has increased with the announced withdrawal.
Mário Paulo has been working at the sugar factory for seven years. Afraid of losing his job, he appeals to the Mozambican government, as a minority shareholder of the unit, to look for business partners. “We’re just waiting for the government to fight to find a new sponsorship so that the factory does not stop, otherwise many people here from Mafambisse will be crying,” he explains.
“We are feeling sad at the moment,” says Domingos Rafael, another sugar worker. “Just as in the field there is no watering, this year there was no taking on of workers, so we do not know what the future holds. There is no working as before, no watering, no weeding, no planning … I don’t know what will happen,” he complains. “We are idle, without work, without pay.”
Mafambisse Sugar is 85% owned by South African Tongaat Hulett and 15% owned by the Mozambican state through the Institute for State Share Management (IGEPE).
Located in Sofala province, the company has now ceased sugarcane cultivation in favour of sugar production and is only maintaining its activity with raw material produced in 2018. “We have no manpower, because the work in the fields is seasonal workers, who were not taken on. The few men we had in the fields came to work in the factory, because they didn’t take anyone on either,” Antonio Bassopa relates.
Workers try to prevent plunder of machinery
In addition to imminent unemployment, the union representative fears that Tongaat Hulett will remove machinery from the unit. “Our great task is to mobilise all workers, despite this announced abandonment, to keep our factory solid, and all the infrastructure here in Mafambisse,” he warns.
“If Tongaat Hulett wants to quit, at least let things stay in a position, for another shareholder to find things working well,” he demands.
DW Africa contacted Tongaat Hulett, but was unable to take with the unit director in Mozambique, allegedly because he was out of the country. According to company figures, the South African holding company has debts of over 11 billion Rands [EUR 675 million].Source: Deutsche Welle