DAVIS MULENGA writes
A SOUTH African telecommunications company, Allied Mobile Communications, abruptly shut down its operations in Zambia, leaving more than 100 Zambians jobless, and without redundancy pay.
Allied Mobile human resources executive for Africa, Stefan Brand, confirmed the winding up of the firm’s operations in Zambia with immediate effect.
“The company has taken the difficult decision to wind up all operations and business activities in Zambia, and will with immediate effect make all positions redundant,” Mr Brand said in a letter to all local employees.
Efforts by the Zambian government to mitigate the plight of the affected workers were frustrated by lack of visible management and assets, crucial to managing a redundancy process as claimed by the company.
Mr Brand, in a letter, dated November 12, 2019, issued to all employees, said the company was unable to pay outstanding salaries from September 2019 as well as redundancy packages.
“We are in communication with the Ministry of Labour on our inability to pay redundancy packages and salaries,” Brand said. Allied Mobile was in 2015 a beneficiary of a US$55 million loan from the South African government through its Public Investment Corporation (PIC).
The loan, according to South African media reports, was for expansion of the company’s operations in the rest of the continent, including Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi.
The company has been operating in Zambia for more than five years, and had been contracted by local mobile network operators to run retail outlets.
However, their contracts had been terminated at different intervals as it was found by local mobile network operators that running their own outlets made economic sense.
Mr Brand said his company had not been able to secure new contracts since severing ties with some local mobile network operators, leading to depletion of its cash flow.
Acting Labour Commissioner Mukamasole Kasanda had earlier summoned the company on its intention to cease operations in Zambia but as of this week, there had been no resolution of ensuring it adhered to meeting the requirements paying redundancy packages, including outstanding salaries, leave days and other dues to employees.
“You are summoned to appear before my office so that we exhaust the issue amicably,” read part of the letter Mr Kasanda sent to management of Allied Mobile on November 5, 2019. Scores of affected employees vented their anger, likening their former employer to the Grinch, a nasty character who decides to ruin Christmas for the cherry citizens in the children’s holiday classic story, “How the Grinch stole Christmas” by American author, Theodor ‘Dr Seuss’ Geisel.
“I have served the company loyally for nearly five years and the reward I get is a bleak Christmas holiday. Talk about the Grinch who stole Christmas,” lamented one of the affected employees who sought anonymity.
In a number of social media posts, the irate workers also appealed to President Edgar Lungu to intervene because they believed the Department of Labour had done enough to make their employer comply with the labour laws of Zambia.