Malawi citizens, Masautso Likhone and┬áIsrael Chilungu, dumped their driver and mechanic jobs, respectively, in their country, lured by the prospect of earning the pula.
They were recruited as bus drivers late last year from their home country by a Motswana transport operator with promises of good wages and free accommodation. The offer was irresistible and they jumped at the prospect with glee. They would make good money with the P1 fetching 25 Malawi Kwacha.
The employer obtained work and residence permits for them. What was missing were public service vehicle licenses.
Things started to go wrong in January this year when their employer was unable to pay their wages as agreed. This was because it was taking too long for the Malawi citizens to obtain PSV licences in order for them to be productive. Occasionally, they drove but ended up being caught.
To the employer, they were a financial liability as he had to pay them on full salary while they were not driving the buses. But still they were doing other menial jobs at the company.
They were paid living allowances of P800 and P1500. Chilungu and Likhone say the money they were being paid fell far short of sustaining them and their families back home. According to them, the employer has since stopped paying the allowances but pays them with food.
“This man is paying us with food. I did not leave my country to be paid with food,” says Chilungu.
The two Malawian citizens have now dragged their employer before labour authorities for disputed unpaid wages. They are also blaming their employer, Goodwill Transport, for breach of contract.
“Goodwill recruited us from Malawi with a promise to pay us P2000 whilst we are on probation. We signed contracts of employment in Malawi but he has been in breach of the contract. We are unable to get work elsewhere. It is not our problem that the process of obtaining a PSV (public service vehicle license) is lengthy.”
The employer, Tshefane Tlhaselo, has confirmed that he has a case to answer regarding his employees but dismissed claims that he has given them a raw deal.
┬á“Where are they?” asked Tshefane Tlhaselo. “I offered them my house to stay for free. I have stopped buying them food because I don’t know where they are. They have not started work yet because the Department of Transport needed to retest them. In the meantime I have been offering them living allowances. They have now gone to the labour office aggrieved that I am refusing to pay them. I have still to meet them at the end of this month at the labour office,” said Tlhaselo.
Tlhaselo has not makes no secret of his intentions to put them on the next bus back home.
Both the employer and employees are to appear before the district labour office for mediation.