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More than 400 Hyundai Motor Distributors Botswana (HMDB) employees who found themselves jobless after the company closed down in 1999 are still running from pillar to post chasing their severance benefits. The Office of the Registrar and Master of the High Court this week refused to disclose information on what happened to the money that was due to the 400 workers after the company was wound down. The Office of the Registrar of the Master and Registrar of the High Court had initially requested a questionnaire from the Sunday Standard only to decline to share the details of the file after the questions were forwarded to their office. One Nomsa Moatswi who is stationed at the Registrar and Masters of the High Court’s Office said it was inappropriate for her office to share any information regarding liquidation of HMDB with journalists. For that reason the information on liquidation for now remains a mystery.
The 400 ex employees of Hyundai Motor Distributors of Botswana (HMDB) vehicle assembly plant, which shut down in 1999, are still searching in vain for their severance packages. HMDB was registered in February 1993 and deregistered 7 years later. According to an Industrial Court Judgment of 25 September 1998 by Judge De Velliers, in anticipation of closure of its vehicle assembly plant at the end of 1999, HMDB by a letter dated 27 July 1998 offered voluntary retrenchment packages to its employees. The terms of it were that those employees who opted for the said voluntary retrenchment packages needed not to resign.
“All they needed was to fill in the forms provided and then leave straight away,” reads the judgment. It further details that most of the employees opted for the above option but there were not enough forms available for all of them,” the judgment stated.
Since the closure of HMDB, ex employees have knocked on almost all government doors seeking an explanation on what happened to their exit packages. According to a letter dated 8 June 2007 from the Office of the President, the money was paid to a committee that was representing the employees. It further advised the employees to take the said committee to task regarding the funds. However the committee denies ever receiving any money from (HMDB). Former Letlhakeng East Member of Parliament Gordon Mokgwathi on 12 February 2009 asked the then Minister of Labour and Home Affairs Peter Siele to provide details of the investigations regarding payment of terminal benefits for the workers. Mokgwathi wanted to know when the said committee representing the former employees was paid, how much was paid to the committee, whether or not the payment were broken down by amounts of money due to each employee and who in particular received the payment in question.
The Minister of Labour and Home Affairs responded thus: “the information I have gathered is that although the correspondence referred to suggests that payment may have been made to the committee, I have not come across any record that shows that indeed that transaction happened. The chairperson of the committee indicated that their former employee never paid them the money which is the subject of their dispute.”
While Parliament records show that HMDB was placed under provisional liquidation, Nomsa Moatswi at The Master’s Office of the High Court said she felt it was inappropriate for her office to share any information regarding liquidation of HMDB with journalists.