Workers turn on liquidator

MASERU — The liquidator of a textile factory whose bankrupt Chinese owner fled the country three years ago, leaving 700 workers jobless,  has come under pressure from creditors to pay up or face the music.
C-River textile factory went bust in September 2007 and its director, Weng Chun-Hsuan, skipped the country leaving a trail of unpaid debts.
Yet the troubles Chun-Hsuan fled are now haunting local lawyer, Nkesi Makhera, the man appointed by the High Court in February 2008 to liquidate the company. 
Last Friday, C-River’s disgruntled workers took to the streets demanding that Makhera pays their severance packages that Chun-Hsuan had disappeared without paying. 
He owed workers M444 000.
They also petitioned the Master of the High Court to order Makhera to pay them.
The workers led by their union, Lentsoe la Sechaba, have since given Makhera until tomorrow to pay up or else “he should leave and be replaced by another liquidator”. 
Lentsoe la Sechaba organiser, Moshoeshoe Mots’oari, said the workers had waited too long for their payment and they have run out of patience.
Mots’oari alleged that what particularly angered the workers was that the liquidator had collected M550 000 from C-River’s debtors “but he has gone for almost two years without saying anything about their payment”.
 “We know that Makhera collected M550 000 a long time ago but up to now he has not said anything about the payment of these workers,” Mots’oari said.
“He should pay now or else give the job to another lawyer who will work with us professionally,” he said.
“Makhera’s conduct is both unprofessional and unethical.”
However, Makhera said the M550 000 that the workers allege he received from the liquidation is actually a security deposit that was paid by a company called Blessing Pty Ltd which is currently using C-River’s premises and machines as well as workers.
“This agreement was reached in consultation with all interested parties including Lentsoe la Sechaba which represented the workers.
“I had also agreed with the Blessing management that they should first provide M500 000 as security because I feared that they might run away like the C-River’s owner did.
“The money was paid and it is the sum Lentsoe la Sechaba is referring to when they say I have collected M550 000,” he said.
Makhera is also under immense pressure from institutional creditors some of whom have since sued him.
When Chun-Hsuan fled the country C-River owed the Lesotho National Development Corporation M133 191 in rentals.
The Lesotho Electricity Corporation claimed the factory had not paid electricity bills totalling M91 000.
The Water and Sewerage Authority is claiming M173 000.
Lesotho Nissan also wants to be paid an undisclosed amount.
But Makhera says C-River is broke and the creditors have to be patient because he is unable to pay them soon.
He blames creditors and other factors for causing further delays in the liquidation.
“Creditors will have to exercise patience because it is going to take me a lot of time to raise enough money to pay them,” Makhera said.
“They (creditors) have lodged too many lawsuits against me in the High Court and we will have to wait for the outcome of these cases before payment can be done.
“I have to do too many things to solve problems they have created (by suing him), which are hindering progress.
Some of the problems were beyond my control, says Makhera, adding that even he assumed his duties late because government printers took a month to print a gazette announcing his appointment.
As a result his first meeting had to be postponed.
“The meeting was postponed at the request of other interested parties and to convene it again I had to advertise it in the gazette and that required another long wait.
“When we had finally held the meeting and agreed on how I was to liquidate the company, the Evergreen Company which trades as Lesotho Nissan sued and I had to redirect my attention to the lawsuit,” he said.
And while he was trying to fend off the suit the workers and other creditors hit him with another suit demanding urgent payment. 
He said he was now looking for new investors to revive the company.
“I have not been able to find that investor chiefly because creditors tampered with my duty,” Makhera said.
He said the initial value of the property after assessment by the High Court sheriff was M1.5 million but after a series of thefts and “possibly machine exchange with other firms” this has dropped to M500 000.

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