Electronics firm shuts down, 275 lose jobs

MASERU — A local radio and television manufacturing company, Kiota Electronics (Pty) Ltd, abruptly shut down on Tuesday leaving about 275 workers jobless.

Disgruntled workers yesterday gathered outside the company’s premises in Ha-Thetsane to protest its sudden closure as well as the packages on offer.

The workers said they had just started work on Tuesday when the owners of the company said they were shutting down the firm immediately “due to circumstances beyond control”.

In a statement on Tuesday, Kiota Electronics (Pty) Ltd chief executive officer, Lee Rodrigues, said they had been forced to shut down because they were no longer securing orders for their products.

The company, which has been operating in Lesotho for 23 years, assembled an average of 15 000 television and radio sets every month.

Rodrigues said efforts to secure other customers had failed leaving the company with no option but to shut down.

“The official contract with our client that had been in existence for 14 years was under very exclusive terms which did not allow us to look for other buyers,” he said.

The workers were on Tuesday served with letters of notice to close down, certificates of service and drafts of calculations for severance pay.

One of the letters sent to the workers read: “It is with great sadness that we are forced to close down Kiota Electronics due to circumstances beyond our control.

“With this we hereby give you 30 days notice that your employment with Kiota Electronics (Pty) will cease on 12 October 2011.

“However as there is no further work available you may leave with immediate effect.”

Management at the factory said they will give workers their salaries and notice pay until October 12.

It added they will also give leave pay for the months worked since January this year, severance pay and a 13th cheque for the period January to September.

But the workers said they felt they had been ripped off.

“This is not what I deserve,” said Katleho Tebeli.

Tebeli, who claimed he worked for Kiota Electronics for six years, said he had been promised a severance pay of M5 000 after tax.

“I don’t deserve that. I have worked so hard for this company and this is what they pay me. M5 000 equals someone’s monthly salary yet my employers are not ashamed to say that is what I worked for over the past six years”, Tebeli said.

Another employee, Molefi Mohapi, said it was illogical for his bosses to decide to close the company so suddenly when they had approved loan applications for some staff members in the past few weeks.

“I know of about three people who applied for personal loans with their banks recently. The employers confirmed their employment status without giving any indication that the company was about to close. They cannot say they realised on Monday that they had to close down the company on Tuesday,” he said.

Moleboheng Sekhonyana said she felt betrayed by her former employers.

Factory Workers’ Union secretary general, Macaefa Billy, condemned the closure.

“It is unacceptable for a company to ditch its employees without notice. I for one do not buy their argument (for shutting down the company),” Bill said.

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