The recent drama in Selibe Phikwe where workers of the trouble prone Pula Steel Manufacturing Company captured the Chief Executive Officer Ranvir Verma has shocked most shareholders of the company, The Patriot on Sunday has learnt. Information gathered by this publication shows that shareholders were shocked when they learnt that Verma had been captured by about 100 employees, because their understanding is that the plant has been placed on Care and Maintenance. “Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) and other shareholders have all along been under the impression that Pula Steel was under some sort of ‘care and maintenance’ as production has been halted. Therefore they were not aware that close to 100 employees had been reporting for duty; and were owed salaries,” revealed a highly placed source. One of the shareholders CEDA-who hold 26% and also chairs the board rushed to the plant to restore order.
CEDA CEO Thabo Thamane and Chief Operations Officer Andrew Madeswi – who is also the board chairman – received the petition and addressed the employees. The petition, which was addressed to the board chairman and signed by over 200 employees, called for the sacking of Verma. Last year BCL as the major shareholder advertised the post of CEO which is currently held by Verma after pressure from the BCL board and CEDA who felt that he has failed to turn around the company. In defence Verma said he was the one who initiated the move that the company need a new CEO and an international investor to inject cash into the plant. Pula Steel management last year approached the board for cash injection and CEDA is said to have agreed to inject P20 million on conditions that a proper management structre be put in place.
CEDA wanted the board to engage Grant Thornton as a management consultant, with strict instructions to prioritise recruitment of a CEO and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) to replace the Vermas. It was expected that all other shareholders being BCL Enterprises, Wealth Generations owned by former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Secretary General Mpho Balopi and Brian Mosenene and the Verma family would contribute their share equivalent to the capital injection.
Other shareholders are said to have failed to meet the conditions and CEDA withheld its P20 million. Investigations by this publication have revealed that other shareholders have been under the impression that the plant was under care and maintenance only to be shocked on Wednesday by reports that Verma had been captured by workers on site.
There is fear among shareholders that the Vermas might have gone against the order of Department of Waste Management and Pollution Control which in June last year ordered the company to close for failure to comply with the safety standards by installing a pollution control system. Pula Steel is said to have been producing billets since December and other shareholders don’t know where they went to as they knew that the company was closed. Contacted for comment CEDA Head of Communications and Marketing Anno Tshipa confirmed that CEO Thamane went to Selibe Phikwe to address Pula Steel employees and meet with the company management.
Pula Steel properties attached
In another development Pula Steel’s movable properties have been attached by Jumbo Warehouse (Pty) LTD. Most of the properties to be sold are vehicles. In July 2014 Pula Steel gobbled P38 460 624.00 with major beneficiaries being Jumbo Warehouse P1 879 383.00, Serious Systems Transporter P10 780 000.00, Reliable Car Sales P5 500 000.00, NP Impex P779 780.00, and Krupa Enterprices A1 P17 755 720.00. Interviewed during that time, Pula Steel Corporate Services Director Brian Mosenene said the reason they sourced a lot of materials from the same companies was that they were ready to give them materials on credit while other suppliers refused.