Former ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) secretary general and businessman Mpho Balopi has distanced himself from a South African drilling company that has failed to pay its employees for the past three months.
The company, Na-Sera Drill and Blast was previously contracted by Debswana Diamond Company at Letlhakane Diamond Mine until its placement under Etienne Naude Attorneys and Conveyancers as business rescue practitioner around beginning of May 2015.
The placement followed the termination of the company’s contract with Debswana Diamond Company.
Its employees were subsequently not paid their salaries.
However, the work that company had been doing was taken over by another company, Advanced Capital Botswana, according to its almost fifty workers who have since reported the matter and non-payment of their salaries to the Letlhakane District Labour Office.
There appears to be some shareholding relationship between Na Sera and Advanced Capital
According to the aggrieved employees, Balopi addressed them in February 2014 as a majority shareholder in Na Sera.
Following the termination of the contract with Debswana, the workers have been left in limbo as their salaries have not been paid to date, The workers do not even know whether they were absorbed by Advanced Capital or not as they sought clarification to no avail.
By letter dated 21st May 2015, the employees wrote their general manager are certain Mr Koos enquiring on their status as they initially were employees by Na Sera.
In their letter they sought clarification on whether they would be paid their terminal benefits, leave pay as well as retrenchment package or would be seconded on continuous service to Advanced Capital.
“On the 20/05/2015 afternoon, it came to our attention that Na Sera’s contract with Debswana has been terminated with effect from the same date of 20/05/15. We now request a written explanation of what’s next following the termination of contract with our client, do we still have jobs? For how long is the company prepared to pay us while awaiting for the next contract from any client?” wrote the employees to their manager. Their letter was received by Toto Goasego who acknowledged receipt on 22/05/15.
As the matter was scheduled for hearing before the Letlhakane District Labour office on May 28, Gaosego wrote to Etiene Naude Attorneys seeking way forward.
On June 10, Gaosego e-mailed Etienne raising his concern and that he was losing patience because he has not been responded to while the employees are pressing for their May 2015 salaries before the labour office.
In reply on 28 May 2015, Etienne wrote the District Labour office for the attention of of one Maruping that Na Sera has been placed under business rescue and Etienne Naude has been appointed as business rescue practitioner (BRP).
“Na sera had a drilling contract with Debswana. Debswana has cancelled the above agreement due to the fact that the company has been placed under business rescue. Somebody told the workers that they will in future work for Advanced Capital Botswana”. Etienne Naude Sarie Josling wrote.
As the issue remains unresolved and the salaries unpaid, Balopi explained in an interview that that he is not involved in Na Sera.
“I am not involved in Na Sera. I am involved in Advanced Capital. My other partners were involved in Na sera. Advanced Capital has shares in Na Sera. Na Sera’s contract with Debswana has been terminated. New Wave Advanced Capital was negotiating with Na Sera to buy the contract. We wanted to localize the contract. The employees have issues with Na Sera and not Advanced Capital. I have advised my other partners to follow the laws of the country and as the continued quarrelling I decided to quit”, said Balopi when approached on his relationship with Na Sera.
He added that the matter is before the courts between Na sera and Debswana.
“I have since decided not to get involved in the messy deal”, said Balopi.
A lawyer from Madandume Attorney in Letlhakane Liberty Nleya who has since been instructed by the aggrieved employees refused to comment.
He said “ I am not in a position to comment on this matter” after initially assuring this publication that he would seek permission from the employees as the matter is confidential between lawyer and client”.