500 jobs under threat

500 jobs under threat

MASERU – ABOUT 500 jobs are on the line at the Shining Century Limited after the Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC) last week cut power to the textile factory over a longstanding debt.
The Shining Century management blames Tlotliso Holdings (Pty) Ltd, partly owned Chieftainess ’Mabereng Seeiso, which they say incurred electricity debt when it was renting the premises.
Tlotliso Holdings had rented the premises from the Shining Century in 2013 but when the dispute arose between them over what Tlotliso Holdings “saw as dishonesty on the part of Shining Century” they parted ways.
Tlotliso Holdings now has its own premises in Matsieng and Tikoe Industrial Area.

Shining Century found another company that occupied the premises and working under its name.
This new management of Shining Century refuses to pay LEC until there is clarity over what Tlotliso Holdings owes.
The LEC is owed about M2 million.

Shining Century management says it is not prepared to pay Tlotliso Holdings’ part of the debt even if it is the one suffering the consequences.
The production manager at the Shining Century, ’Malekhooa Mosoeunyane, the management met the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC) but the matter was not resolved.
“The electricity was cut because the company owes a lot of money,’’
Mosoeunyane said.
She said the debt started accumulating in January 2019 when the company was struggling to pay its bills due to low production.

Mosoeunyane however said it is Tlotliso Holdings’ that made the situation dire.
She said they are pleading with the LEC to reconnect the factor because
“500 workers might lose their jobs.”
Mosoeunyane said the management of Shining Century had no problem of paying their own debt but they want to know what Tlotliso Holdings owes.
“My boss said he can pay that amount cash for the production to continue but he cannot afford to pay the whole amount.”

The public relation manager of LEC, Makhetha Motšoari, said they only charge the account not a person or institution.
“If you buy a company, you buy it with its debts unless you change the account,” Motšoari said.
He said it is still possible to change the electricity account but if the previous account owes LEC, the debt has to be settled first before the change is made.
“The company which is using the account is the one accountable for the debt owed by the account,” he said.

A shop steward for the National Clothing and Textile Workers Union (NACTWU) at the Shining Century, Majobo Theko, said the employer complains that he is been put under pressure by the LEC to pay the whole debt before power can be restored.
Theko said there was an agreement that Shining Century should continue using the factory so that the workers can keep their jobs while Tlotliso Holdings clears its debts.
“But the LNDC, which was supposed to be following the matters to make sure that Tlotliso Holdings pay its debt, failed,” Theko said.

The Deputy General Secretary of NACTWU, Tšepang Makakole, said urgent intervention is required to save the jobs.
“The workers were told to go home until further notice hence the operations have stopped,” Makakole said.
He said they heard that the owner of the firm said over 70 percent of that debt belongs to Tlotliso Holdings.
“So this whole debt is now the burden of the current firm operating in those premises,” he said.

Makakole said on Monday the LNDC ordered them to settle the matter with the employer.
But the employer told them that he will only pay them for the days they worked for.
He said the LNDC denied that there was an agreement between Tlotliso Holdings and the current management of Shining Century.
“It even denied that it was involved in those agreements and there are no written documents to prove that,” Makakole said, adding: “But we found out that it is true that there were agreements made.”

The Public Relations Manager of LNDC, Tiisetso Moremoholo, said the LNDC “has a relationship with Shining Century and therefore because the issue at hand emanates from a relationship between Tlotliso Holdings Pty and Shining Century, LNDC cannot comment on the dealings between the two entities”.
The manager of Shining Century, Austen Chen Taiwan, told thepost that he will not comment until the matter is resolved.
“If there is anything that needs clarification, LNDC will answer all the questions,” Chen Taiwan said.

Shining Century’s previous boss, Jennifer Chen, could not be reached for a comment as her phone went unanswered.
Chieftainess ’Mabereng Seeiso and her business partner, Fang Lu, said Shining Century tried to cheat Tlotliso Holdings and they pulled out of the deal to rent the premises.

Chieftainess Seeiso said Jennifer Chen fraudulently leased them a property that belonged to LNDC.
“We found, from officials of the LNDC itself, that it was wrong for anybody to rent out the LNDC’s property without its approval,” she said.
“Until today I still do not know or understand why the LNDC did not take any action when Shining Century rented out its property to us.”
She said Chen also lured them into buying the property saying it belonged to her company and “we would pay her a lot of money and at the end find that we have been cheated, the property does not belong to her”.
She said they went to as far as acquiring a loan from a local bank to buy the property but they stopped the transaction when they discovered that the property belonged to the LNDC.

“The LNDC knew of this fraud but it kept quiet. I don’t know what interest the LNDC has with this firm.”
Tlotliso Holdings and Shining Century have an acrimonious history. In 2015 Shining Century sued Tlotliso Holdings for M700 000 in outstanding rentals.
Tlotliso Holdings refused to pay.
Court papers show that Tlotliso Holdings had agreed to buy the entire Shining Century for USD1 million.
The agreement was that if the sale fell through Tlotliso Holdings would return the building to Shining Century.
Tlotliso Holding’s obligation would be to clear all utility bills.

Chieftainess Seeiso said Shining Century must come out in the open and explain why it cannot pay workers and its power bills “instead of clinging to a case of four years ago”.
“We have nothing to do with any of the problems they are encountering now. We parted ways a long time ago,” she said.
She said she was surprised when she received a letter saying she owed electricity “as if that was my personal debt”.

Refiloe Mpobole

 

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