Sky Country dissociates itself from Chen

Sky Country dissociates itself from Chen

MASERU – A South African meat supplier has rejected any connection with a Lesotho company that has been accused of selling rotten meat.
In a strongly worded rebuttal, Sky Country South Africa dissociated itself from a Chinese businessman, Chen Jin Song who claims to run a franchise for Sky Country.

Sky Country told thepost this week that it is ready to assist, support and cooperate in “any investigation and audit to protect the integrity of our products and name”. This comes after Song, the sole shareholder of Shake Universary International (Pty) Ltd, Trustworthy Enterprises (Pty) Ltd and CJS Import & Export (Pty) Ltd claimed that Sky Country was his franchisor.

Song runs a chain of meat wholesales in Maseru and Mafeteng which the government closed last week accusing him of selling rotten meat.
He was also arrested and temporarily locked up in police holding cells until his lawyers came to his rescue.
Trade Minister Tefo Mapesela raided his shops and found foodstuffs that had expiry dates that were as far back as December last year.
Song denies that the meat which he bought in bulks from Sky Country in South Africa was rotten.

Sky Country has been irked by claims by Song that it is the franchisor of the Lesotho companies. The media reported last week that Sky Country had been shut down in Lesotho. According to Sky Country director, Jaco Coetsee, these businesses are owned by Chen’s Shake Universary International which is a regular customer of Sky Country. “These stores commonly became known as Sky Country stores in Lesotho since the majority of products offered are Sky Country products,” Coetsee said.

“Sky Country merely supplies various clients in Lesotho and unfortunately has very limited control over how their products are managed and handled, once exported to Lesotho,” he said. The Sky Country Finance Manager J J Grobbelaar told thepost that Song and his company are not a franchise as he indicated in his affidavit. “Sky Country has no franchises and or franchise agreements at all with any other parties in South Africa and or in any land outside of South Africa, including Lesotho,” Grobbelaar said.

“We are very proud of our company and the products we manufacture and is (sic) committed to upholding our core value, namely quality,” he said.
Grobbelaar reiterated that Sky Country “will assist and give our full support and cooperation to any investigation and audit to protect the integrity of our products and our name”. Song deposed to an affidavit in court saying his companies are franchises of Sky Country South Africa in an ex parte application in the Maseru Magistrate’s Court.

An ex parte application is an urgent application that requires a decision without the need to hear all of the parties to the dispute.
Song has since obtained an interim court order restraining Trade Minister Tefo Mapesela and the Maseru City Council (MCC) from closing his shops pending finalisation of his case.

It is in this application that Song claimed that his companies “operate as meat wholesalers as a franchise of Sky Country Enterprise, a South African company”. Song, who is the sole director of Trustworthy Enterprises (Pty) Ltd that is accused of selling rotten meat, says there is no rotten meat in his fridges.

Song, who also claims to manage another company called Ke a Rona (Pty) Ltd, gives a number of reasons why the Ministry of Trade and the Maseru City Council (MCC) should not close his shops. Song’s explanations are contained in his affidavit.
In the affidavit, Song says there were no meat products that had expired adding that “when customers rummage through the goods to choose what they want to buy, some of the packaging gets destroyed and as a cost-saving measure I reseal the said packaging”.

“It is these that were said to be damages and were later confiscated,” Song says.
“They nonetheless constituted an insignificant component of the stock on the premises,” he says.

The affidavit comes after his Trustworthy 1, a wholesale opposite U-Save Supermarket near the main bus stop in Maseru, was raided last week.
Song says his Trustworthy 2 wholesale, situated at NRH Mall along Kingsway Road in Maseru, was also raided and while there he noticed that the MCC’s “long wheel base bakkie was full of literally rotten meat confiscated from U-Save Supermarket”.

Song argues that to date U-Save has never been closed, which clearly demonstrates discriminatory and selective treatment by the MCC and the Ministry of Trade. He says it is “not only indicative of the fact that my businesses were the ones targeted, but also contrary to the precepts of the constitution”.

He says while his Maseru businesses were being ransacked he received calls from Mafeteng saying his other two meat outlets under CJS Import & Export (Pty) Ltd had been closed down at the instruction of Mapesela. Song argues that Mapesela’s instructions to close down his businesses were wrongful and unlawful.

He says Mapesela does not have the requisite authority not only to inspect businesses, but to order their closure as well, as this authority vests with the Commissioner of Trade acting on the advice of the Board in terms of Section 20 of the Trading Enterprises Order No. 11 of 1993.
He also says Mapesela, even if he had the authority to shut down the businesses, had no right to do so because there was “no violation of the rules, no matter how minimal, had been found to exist”.

Song also says Mapesela should have followed the tenets of natural justice by giving him a chance to be heard before deciding to order the closure of his businesses, power he says the minister does not have. He pleaded with the court to order that his businesses should be reopened. Song said the goods were perishable and if they remained unattended there was a possibility that the supply of electricity would run out, resulting in damage to the stock.

“In fact, the electricity at the NRH business is critically low and may go off at any time,” he said.
He also queried that the keys to his shops were in the hands of the ministry’s officials “and the safety of the stock-in trade is not guaranteed”.
He argued that Mapesela should have padlocked the shops with his own keys and chains, “leaving the keys to the doors with me, so that none of the parties should, for safety reasons, have exclusive access to the premises”.

He also said he has employed 180 people “who stand to lose their jobs and salaries for as long as the said premises remain closed”.
He said Mapesela and his officials “resorted to self-help, something which courts of law in all civilised jurisdictions do not countenance”.
The MCC spokesman, ’Makatleho Mosala, said they have raided Chen’s businesses countless times.

“It is not a new thing. Every year for the past four years during our raids we found rotten items in that store,” Mosala said.
She said at one time they found tons of rotten meat at one of the stores’ warehouses in the Hoohlo industrial area.
Mosala told thepost that several big stores like U-save, Shoprite and Pick n Pay usually call them when they have compromised stock.

“They call us for assistance to dispose those items. They do not wait for us to raid their stores so they declare those items and we help with the disposal of such items,” Mosala said.  She said these stores usually take these items back to the manufacturers with the MCC stepping in to dispose items that cannot be taken back to the manufacturer.

She said Song’s stores have never asked the MCC to assist in disposing expired items but choose to sell them.
“They do not comply at all and unfortunately Basotho have also adopted that because you will find that in village stores some still have expired items on the shelves,” Mosala said.

“We plead with Basotho to stop buying from such stores because they are compromising their health.” U-Save told thepost that they have an arrangement with the MCC to collect their damaged goods on several days and when they have compromised items they take them back to the manufacturer.

This explains why the MCC van had unwholesome foodstuffs from U-Save as Song noticed.
U-Save said in some cases the manufacturer instructs them to seek assistance from the MCC when they report that some goods are not for public consumption.

Staff Reporter

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