Ten former Garrick Operations employees handed a petition to the Office of the President last week, seeking its intervention on their unpaid severance benefits, leave and overtime balance that accrued from 1st January to 31st December 2014. The former employees say Garrick Operations owe them over P90 000.
Garrick Operations was subcontracted by APR Energy of USA for operations and maintenance of Matshelagabedi Power Plant, 70 Mw - an emergency power rental project to bridge the supply gap through a power purchase agreement between BPC and APR Energy. Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) would in 2014 take over the management of the power plant from APR to date. After taking over BPC hired the same companies that had been engaged by APR Energy, including Garrick Operations. Things began taking a twist when the owner of Garrick Operations, Lazarous Kujenga died mid-2014 and his wife, Norma Mukono, inherited the company.
Sources say Garrick Operations immediately sunk deep in debt. The company’s former accountant, Joyce Poane told Botswana Guardian in an interview that in fact Garrick’s financial woes began long before Kujenga died. She said the company struggled to pay mortgage with Stanbic Bank; was not in good books with Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) and most importantly, the employees suffered the most.
That is when Patrick Seleka came into the picture and was introduced to the employees as the company advisor. A few months down the line, Garrick management informed workers that the company was getting into a Joint Venture with Mmantshetsa Holdings, a company owned by Seleka, to help run the tender, which was coming to an end.BPC confirmed to this publication that on the 4th of November 2014, it approved a tender award to Garrick Operations/ Mmantshetsa Holdings Joint Venture for a period of one year, commencing 1 January 2015 – 31 December 2015.
Seleka then took over operations as project Manager of the joint venture. Employees signed offer letters and employment contracts under the new company and it was business as usual at Matshelagabedi power plant.However, for Poane, the transition was a sad one as she lost her job. “Seleka told me he has his own people who will handle the company finances,” she lamented. Moreover, before Seleka came to the rescue, the employees say they brought it to his attention that Garrick owes them severance benefits and overtime balances. “He did not fight us but assured us that he will help Garrick pay us back our money in instalments, fair enough he did exactly that but pulled out halfway through the year,” they said.
Matters turned nasty when Seleka told the employees that Garrick has been liquidated, and that he could not continue paying the debts, as he was now director of Mmantshetsa Holdings. Meanwhile Mokuno was nowhere to be found; this meant the employees were terminated and left stranded with a significant balance of their hard-earned earnings. The complainants say in the petition to the OP that Seleka feigned ignorance about the whereabouts of Garrick, which assertion they deemed “disingenuous” since he had assumed the labour hire contract from Garrick Operations and inherited its former employees.
The matter was brought before the Industrial Court of Botswana in Francistown where it was ruled that the former employees had sued the wrong party, Garrick/Mmantshetsa JV. The former employees then reported to law enforcement agencies and also to Francistown West and South MPs Ignatius Moswaane and Wynter Mmolotsi in an effort to help locate Garrick but to no avail.“I am aware of the matter but the director who was in charge at that time was not willing to cooperate,” said Moswaane. Mmolotsi on the other hand says he tabled the matter in parliament sometime back. “I cannot recall vividly what the response from the minister was however I believe the complainants had issues of liabilities and unfair dismissal,” said the MP.
When reached for comment, Seleka said, “I am not in a position to discuss anything over the phone nevertheless I think I am aware of what this is about and I know exactly the people peddling it.” The former employees now want the Office of the President to help summon BPC and the management of Garrick/Mmantshetsa Joint Venture and the affected employees to resolve the issue amicably.BPC awarded Mmantshetsa Holdings the extension of contract for the provision of manpower services at Matshelagabedi 70MW power plant for two years, from Jan 2016 to Dec 2017.
BPC is currently paying P510 000 into Mmantshetsa Holdings’ coffers until the end of contract, for the provision of human resources for operation of the facility.The ten former employees’ employment contracts were not renewed when they came to an end in December 2016.