National 15.9.2016 07:42 am

Workers booted from office of ex-premier raking in millions

Pictures: Nigel Sibanda

Pictures: Nigel Sibanda

A former Northern Cape premier paid himself handsomely while his staff got nothing, and he continued to ignore them despite a sit-in at his offices.

While more than 250 employees of a manganese mine in the Northern Cape have not been paid their salaries for the past five months, the mine’s owner – former Northern Cape premier Manne Dipico – is earning millions.

Documents seen by The Citizen show that Dipico, owner of Diro Manganese Pty (Ltd), earned a salary, including bonuses, of R1 258 284.86 in July 2015. The documents further suggest that, in July this year, company CFO Abraham Hermanus Leach earned a cost-to-company salary of R250 000 per month.

Diro Manganese is currently under business rescue and the money owed to the workers is in the region of R28 million. Gavin Gainsford, Diro Manganese business rescue practitioner, said in a letter that “payment of the outstanding salaries and wages will be dependent on the terms of the post-commencement finance [PCF] and the turnaround plan”.

The PCF refers to finance provided to a company once business rescue proceedings have commenced. Potential investors in Diro Manganese have until noon today to provide an irrevocable bank guarantee to Gainsford to the amount of R28 million, which must be paid upfront to the employees upon the adoption of the business rescue plan. According to the workers, more than 250 of them were last paid salaries in April.

About 40 of the workers staged a sit-in at the Diro Manganese offices at Riverside Office Park, Centurion, for almost a week, sleeping in the offices and sharing a single blanket. But they were evicted on Tuesday night after the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria issued an eviction order against them. The applicants were Pivotman (Pty) Ltd, Diro Manganese and Gainsford.

Some of the workers during the sit-in.

Some of the workers during the sit-in, during which they were living at the office.

During the eviction – carried out by masked guards from Prof Risk Security Services (PRSS) – the workers’ belongings were allegedly thrown out of the building.

Some workers claim to have been assaulted while others said they lost valuables, documents and wallets.

In retaliation, the workers barricaded the streets. About 11 were arrested and are expected to appear in court soon.

Mojalefa Mollo, an Economic Freedom Fighters leader in Pretoria, and his team offered the workers temporary accommodation and food. The workers said all they wanted was what was rightfully theirs: “our salaries”.

Some workers claim to have lost their cars and other assets due to non-payment because they have not been paid for months. They are also unable to obtain jobs, as records show they are still employed by Diro Manganese.

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Protesting messages at the company’s offices.

“We feel we are being held hostage by the employer … the law favours the rich and not the poor.”

PRSS group managing director Kai Weinzheimer said: “It is protocol” to wear masks during the eviction.

“I don’t see how this has got anything to do with the media. I am not going to comment further, speak to the landlord.”

Speaking on behalf of Pivotman, Lizelle du Toit said: “We are not in a position to comment on the operational procedures of a third party.” She said Diro Manganese “is not in occupation of the premises” and that “we obtained a court interdict against the illegal occupation of the premises”.

She said they worked closely with the sheriff of the court.

“As the safety and security of all our tenants are of the utmost importance, the eviction was done at the least disruptive time. We liaised with the SA Police Service and the sheriff throughout the process.”

Diro’s legal and commercial manager, Breyton Rooiland, said the business was under rescue, but declined to comment further and referred all questions to Leach and Gainsford, who did not respond to messages.

– vicky@citizen.co.za

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