MASERU-About 228 farmers are stranded after a locally abattoir failed to pay them for the chickens they have supplied for the past three years.
Thuathe Chicken Abattoir based Ha Hoohlo owes a staggering M350 755 to the farmers who are mostly based in Maseru but because the business had changed hands over the past three years it is not clear which operator is liable.
The farmers said they had not received a cent for the chickens that they have been supplying to the abattoir for the past three years.
The farmers were selling their chickens to the abattoir on credit on condition that they will be paid after three weeks.
Their appeals for payment have been futile because there is already a dispute between the current owner of the abattoir and the previous operator as to who should settle the debt.
Some of the farmers said they are owed by Thabiso Mothabeng who used to rent the abattoir in 2006.
Others claim that they are owed by Palesa Makakole who used to be the manager of the abattoir during Mothabeng’s tenure.
Palesa’s family owns the abattoir but she had been hired by Mothabeng as a manager after he leased the abattoir.
Palesa’s family later kicked out Mothabeng on the pretext that she wanted to operate it as a family business.
Makakole was left in charge for a few months before the abattoir closing shop, leaving the farmers unpaid.
The current operator of the abattoir, Serabele Makakole, is also receiving demands from the farmers.
None of the three operators want to take responsibility for the debts.
Mothabeng said during his time all the farmers were paid on time.
He said the farmers who were complaining were owed by Thuathe Chicken Abattoir as a company.
“Towards the end of 2005 there was a shortage of chickens. The farmers showed their interest that they would like to supply us with the chickens. Those who supplied during that period got their payments,” Mothabeng said.
He said early in 2006 the owners of the abattoir evicted him.
“I had no chance to contest because they were the owners and the contract was only being drafted. The contract was going to take five years. I never took anybody’s chickens. It’s Thuathe as a company that is liable for all those debts.”
However some of the farmers produced receipts indicating that they had supplied chickens to the abattoir when Mothabeng was running it but were never paid.
One of the farmers said the receipts had a “Care Thabiso Mothabeng” note on them.
The farmer is owed M14 000.
Palesa Makakole said it was Mothabeng who owed the money because the farmers supplied chicken during the time when he was still running the abattoir.
She said she is aware that some farmers were still owed money.
“Yes it’s true that there are people were owed money but I don’t owe them as Palesa Makakole,” she said.
“Mothabeng had not paid rent for a long time so he had to move out.”
The director of Thuathe Chicken Abattoir Serabele Makakole said in early 2005 Thabiso Mothabeng hired the chicken abattoir.
“He hired Palesa Makakole with experience she had and they were working together,” said Makakole.
“I was never part of this company during that period and I did not have information concerning the business then. When I came back from school he was no longer running the abattoir,” he said.
He said when he was preparing to reopen the company some farmer came to the offices and demanded that they be paid.
“The debts were made during a period when Mothabeng was running that business and whatever happened then unfortunately I had no control over it.”
“I encouraged the farmers to come collectively and pick a lawyer because there is nothing I can do as these debts do not involve us as the owners of Thuathe,” said Makakole.