United Refineries Botswana (Pty) Ltd (URB), a company co-owned by Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) and MP for Tati East MP Guma Moyo, Mmoloki Tibe, Tiedze Chapi and Nimesh Shamani is facing serious financial problems resulting in it owing P4, 257,608.95 in staff wages.
Employees thronged the premises of URB on Monday demanding payment of their arrear salaries, with some claiming to be owed salaries over a period on twelve months.
The Botswana Gazette is in possession of a document purported to be from the company’s payroll system which shows that as at end of October, the company owed P2, 249.357.96 to its salaried employees, P124, 178.33 to Plant Operators, P131, 916.30 to security services, P26, 107.08 to terminated interns and P1, 726,049.27 to all terminated employees. A total amounting to P4, 257,608.95.
URB was incorporated in January 2010 with the objective of providing affordable high-quality edible vegetable oils using current technologies and systems that optimize efficiency. The company manufactures Crude cooking oil through a refinery.
This publication has been availed correspondence between URB and one of its employees, a Sales Officer Patience Madakwa who has taken the company to the Labour Department seeking payment of her accumulated and overdue salary. In one of the letters from the District Labour Officer in Francistown summoning URB management for a mediation hearing, Madakwa claims she is owed salaries for May, June, August, October, November, December 2017 and January February, March, April and October 2018.
URB in a response to Madakwa, dated 13 July 2018, acknowledges that she is owed P200, 678.81 and promised to ‘‘process all due outstanding payments and entitlements and you will be informed once the timing of payments has been finalized’’. According to the documents, Madakwa was paid P41, 000 in September leaving a residual balance of P198, 113.65 remaining due and payable.
Reached for comment, Managing Director of the company Mmoloki Tibe acknowledged that they owe staff salaries and put the blame on low sales. He said they are working around the clock to settle the payments before the Christmas break. He said they are expecting orders to materialise which will help cushion the company financially. He said he could not comment on how much they owe the employees in total as that was sensitive and confidential information. He blamed retailers who prefer to buy cooking oil from South Africa and then sell it at lower prices in Botswana, which then forces URB to also reduce their prices beyond profitable margins.
In May this year, this publication reported that a CEDA employee was dismissed from work for apparently refusing to process a refinancing application from URB. The employee from the Structured Finance Department wrote in her letter of appeal that she was being victimised for questioning the loan application from URB despite the fact she had provided reasons justifying her apprehension in granting the loan. She noted that the loan did not include a Board resolution requesting further funding. ‘‘This is standard requirement for all applications to CEDA and according to its check list guidelines’’, she had written in the appeal.
For his part, Tati East MP Guma Moyo claimed that the complaints haven’t yet reached him and could not comment further because as board chair he is a non-executive director who does not engage on the day to day business of the company.
URB and its management face possible criminal charges for their failure to pay the company’s employees on time.