Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Winston Churchill, once said: “I took a taxi one day to the BBC offices for an interview.”
When I arrived, I asked the driver to wait for me for forty minutes until I got back, but the driver apologized and said, “I can’t, because I have to go home to listen to Winston Churchill’s speech”.
I was amazed and delighted with the man’s desire to listen to my speech! So I took out 20 pounds which was huge money at that time and gave it to the taxi driver without telling him who I was. When the driver collected the money, he said: “I’ll wait for hours until you come back sir! And let Churchill go to hell.
This might sound a tad funny but this is exactly what has always been happening.
With this story, you can see how evident principles have been modified in favour of money; nations sold for money; honour sold for money; families split for money; friends separated for money; people killed for money; and people being made slaves for money.
And then, Salima Sugar Company, which for a long time has been used as a cash cow comes to mind, as our principles as a country have been modified for money.
Salima Sugar Factory is now at the centre of controversy after ‘smuggling’ into the country its employees from India where a new deadly wave of the coronavirus has struck- forcing government of Malawi to ban flights and visitors from that country.
It is surprising that the government of Malawi has not taken the company’s management to task for this act – which threatens public health.
However, highly-placed impeccable sources have confided in us that the company is a well-known cash cow which has enjoyed immunity since its commissioning in 2015.
“You cannot question this company even when its operations in the country raise a lot of questions. Just last year the immigration department arrested scores of foreign workers who worked at the company without necessary documentations. How that story ended no one knows,” said the source, adding:
“This company had been conniving with senior officials in the former government (DPP) and that is how it was protected. I do not want to believe that the new government is also captured” said the source.”
The source further said that government has done well to subject all foreign employees to Covid-19 test and quarantine but it would have helped management would have been held accountable for bringing in their workers at a time like this one.
Government’s conduct on Salima Sugar Company provides room for suspicion.
After launching the buy Malawi campaign in 2009, the government of Malawi has allowed its own investment (Salima Sugar Company) to massively import labour from India even for jobs that can easily be handled by Malawians.
Salima Sugar Company employs 125 skilled workers from India since it started its operations in 2015.
This is contrary to the joint venture agreement between Malawi government and AUM Sugar and Allied Limited (AUM) – the Indian investor – running the company.
The joint venture agreement indicated that there should be skills transfer within three years after commissioning of the factory.
According to inside sources government has not been willing to push for transfer of skills because some top officials, especially in the former administration (DPP), benefitted from this arrangement which is a potential area for money laundering.
“It is time President Chakwera and his vice Saulos Chilima take interest in companies like Salima Sugar Company and how it operates.
“But before that they must investigate why would the government of Malawi be a minority in a company owned by the Indian investors when the Malawian people has had to give up their land ?
“How much money has the Indian investors put in this business and how is Malawi and her people benefitting from this? asked the source.
‘Clearing the rubble’
In 2020 production of sugar was affected after the Indian workers went back to India as part of off-season holiday.
These workers are expected to be in the country April to December for the crushing of sugar.
Their holiday runs between Decembers to March. But last year they could not come back on time due to Covid-19 travel restrictions.
Government, through the Greenbelt Holdings Limited, which has done almost everything; from constructing the factory to injecting billions in capital investment, holds 40 percent shares in the sugar company while the Indian investor has 60 percent stakes even when they have not made their obligation to contribute capital investment as indicated in the joint-venture agreement.
Salima sugar company required about 100 million US dollars as an investment capital and the agreement was that government would contribute 40 percent and the investor 60 percent.
Government has contributed 4000 hectares of land valued at 4.6 million US dollars, construction of the factory (mill) cost government 36.4 million bringing the total to 40 million US dollars. Government obtained a loan from India, which it used to construct the factor.
There are no records showing how much the investor has contributed to warrant them be the majority shareholder. Government has also obtained K20 billion loan from CDH investment bank which government gave the company to boost its operations even when the firm has been making profits.
Salima Sugar Company produces 27,000 metric tonnes of sugar every year.
Chairperson for Salima Sugar Company Limited Shirieesh Betgiri when contacted ignored the calls and did not respond to the WhatsApp messages sent to him.
Nyasa Times investigations indicate that, other than poor working conditions for the Malawian local employees, Salima Sugar Company has in the recent times been embroidered in a number of issues of grave concern which include, among other things, lack of formal contracts for staff, salary disparities and failure by the company to to provide safety equipment.
It is also noted that the company has failed to provide compensation to five Malawian workers, who has had their body parts severed by factory machinery in the line of duty.
Salima Sugar Company is also on record for treating bad and disrespecting its local workers, for instance, forcing the indigenous employees to share accommodation between married couples and singletons, both male and female.
“If President Chakwera and vice Chakwera are looking for a rubble to clear, Salima Sugar Company is a place to start from. This place is a sacred cash cow for politicians and some government officials.
“Like William Churchill’s tax driver, who valued money over principles, Salima Sugar do not care about Malawians but the money they make,” said the source.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :