BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
STRUGGLING beef processor, Cold Storage Commission (CSC) has temporarily ceased operations and is sending workers on forced leave to allegedly allow for “retooling and refurbishments”.
Southern Eye has gathered that the CSC will cease operations on October 1, with plans to re-open on January 1, 2020, but insiders cast doubt about the prospect of re-opening alleging that all is not well as its United Kingdom investor is struggling to revive the company.
In March 2019, government signed an agreement with a UK-based investor Boustead Beef (Pvt) that was to inject US$400 million over the next five years to revive the company.
At the time, Boustead Beef (Pvt) promised to complete the resuscitation of CSC within six months before revitalising the Masvingo, Chinhoyi and Marondera branches.
But all has not been well amid reports that Boustead Beef (Pvt) is a briefcase company with a paltry £10 000 (US$12 674) in its books of accounts, raising doubt around its capability to mobilise millions of dollars required to resuscitate the debt-ridden State enterprise. Just recently, several workers had their contracts terminated.
“CSC Boustead Beef would like to advise its valued customers and stakeholders that the factory will be closed for repairs, refurbishments and re-tooling from 1st October 2019 to 31st January 2020. There will be no slaughters during this period,” read a latest notice by the management to customers.
It is understood employees have been told to go on forced leave during the period. This has sparked a stand-off between management and workers as the latter fear losing out on their terminal benefits and outstanding pay should the company fail to re-open. They cited unfulfilled promises by the UK investor after buying into the CSC.
“We are being sent on forced leave, so they are saying, but workers are adamant that they will not sign the leave forms as no-one knows if they are genuinely sending us on leave or trying to wipe our leave days so that they retrench us with peanuts,” said one of the employees.
CSC managing director Nick Havercroft refused to comment on the matter.
Hellen Sibanda, a senior company official was not particularly pleased when questioned about the latest developments.
“We are trying to revive CSC, but you keep sabotaging the efforts by busy harassing the new investor. There are labour processes that any employee goes through if they have issues,” Sibanda said before referring Southern Eye to Agriculture minister Perrance Shiri.
Shiri refused to comment saying: “They are a private company. It will be improper for me to comment on their behalf lest I end up being accused of misrepresenting the situation.”
CSC’s Bulawayo complex is the largest meat slaughtering facility in Africa and only trails Botswana Meat Commission in terms of the latest technologies.
At the attainment of independence in 1980, CSC was one of Zimbabwe’s major foreign currency earners, as it exported thousands of tonnes of beef to the European Union (EU).
At its peak, the beef processor and marketer used to handle up to 150 000 tonnes of beef and associated by-products annually and exported to the EU, where it had an annual quota of 9 100 tonnes of beef.