…former workers’ diary of events
The workers detailed their struggle in all avenues as they continue fighting for justice.
In 2005, the workers ran to court to complain that they had been shortchanged by Sappi, but the company won the case and in 2011 acknowledged the court ruling in its favour with regard to additional benefits claimed by ex-employees retrenched in 2005. On the eve of the take-over of Montigny, Shane Perrow, General Manager, and Elijah Masondo, Public Affairs Officer, issued a public statement that read:
“A lease to Montigny of the redundant Usutu Motor Transport facility, where 100 000 tons per annum ‘Wet off’ sawmill and a door manufacturing facility will be erected.
“A lease to Montigny of staff accommodation in Bhunya and Mhlambanyatsi; An agreement to supply Montigny with 95 000 tons per annum of timber for beneficiation in the sawmill; An agreement to supply Montigny with 25 000 tons per annum of timber and 20 000 tons per annum of woodwaste for beneficiation in their charcoal manufacturing facilities, which will be located in the neighbouring chiefdoms;The creation of over 500 new job opportunities. Usutu Pulp Company has secured from Montigny Investments the commitment that Usutu Pulp Company employees will be prioritised in the recruitment process.
“We welcome this verdict and believe it is now imperative for all stakeholders to focus on the expansion and growth of Usutu Pulp Company, so that it may once again be a major contributor to the economic growth of Swaziland (Eswatini). From the onset, we indicated that the packages we paid were fair and reasonable.
We are committed to moving forward and investing in Swaziland, whilst maximising local beneficiation. The current activities of Usutu Pulp Company have already created over 1 200 job opportunities, which will only increase as the longer term growth strategy of Usutu Pulp Company is implemented,” This was according to Alex Thiel, CEO of Sappi, Southern Africa.
“We call upon our ex-employees to be cautious and not to be deceived by false promises and unfounded allegations against the company and its management,” he concluded.
In the statement, they further said despite the continuous financial challenges and the devastating 2008 fires, Sappi had continued to act in good faith towards its former employees and contractors for over 14 months. It claimed that Sappi Usutu had provided subsidised rental, education assistance, recreational facilities and clinics to ex-employees and ex-contractors.