BY MTHANDAZO NYONI
National Blankets workers yesterday staged a demonstration against the company’s judicial manager and major shareholder, accusing him of plotting to liquidate the company before paying their outstanding salaries.
The company, which was once one of the largest employers in Bulawayo, was placed under judicial management in 2012 after it faced serious viability problems.
Philip Ndlovu of PNA Chartered Accountants was appointed judicial manager, but the workers are now accusing him of conniving with National Blankets majority shareholder Tichafa Elias Mujuru to liquidate the company for their own benefit.
“Some of us were retrenched in 2011, but never got our benefits. In 2013, the company came up with a scheme of arrangement and we were told that we had become one of the shareholders with an 11% shareholding. Then 50% of our money was thrown away,” workers’ committee chairperson, Fudu Ndlovu told NewsDay during the demonstration held at the company’s premises.
As part of the scheme of arrangement, workers were paid 50 cents of every dollar owed.
“They paid us 8% of the remaining 50%, meaning 42% was left out of the scheme,” he said.
The placard-waving workers said they were owed more than $1,8 million.
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They accused Ndlovu, who they said volunteered to become judicial manager, of being incompetent.
“We are against liquidation. If he (Ndlovu) has failed to run the company, he should resign. Bulawayo is dying in his hands. He is the judicial manager for about 10 companies in Bulawayo and all of them are struggling,” one worker said.
Workers also accused Mujuru of wanting to liquidate the company for his benefit.
“He wants to liquidate the company to avoid paying creditors. He wants to use his company called Trends to bid for him. If he has failed, why doesn’t he allow other investors to take over? We are prepared as workers to run this company,” another worker said.
“The company is failing due to mismanagement. Workers, some who served more than 44 years, are reeling in poverty. They got nothing after toiling all these years. It’s very sad. We are appealing to government to intervene,” yet another worker mourned.
In a petition submitted to Bulawayo Metropolitan Affairs minister Judith Ncube’s office, workers said the judicial management system had failed many companies in Bulawayo.
“Workers are tired of judicial management (because) (it) addresses the interests of shareholders only. We are saying no to liquidation. Workers are, therefore, requesting capital investment to proceed and continue with productivity,” part of the petition read.
“We have all the experience and ability to run the company. Please, Honorable Minister, Bulawayo should not be allowed to die. (If) industry would be allowed to close, communities would eventually die. Please, help us by (presenting) our issues to government.”
Workers said liquidation was tantamount to de-industrialisation because it creates unemployment, increases poverty, creates shortage of goods, suffocates the economy and affects government revenue, as well as suppress workers.
Contacted for comment, Ndlovu only said: “I don’t comment on those things.”