While he sympathises with frustrated employees of Khato Civils who have lost their monthly income due to completion of the Masama- Mmamashia water project, the company chairman, Simbi Phiri, says there is nothing much he can do for them because the 100km project has been completed and is awaiting handing over in two weeks time.
Khato Civils had employed over 600 Batswana but currently retains only 126 of following the timely completion of the project. “The project has ended,” Phiri told The Business Weekly & Review. “We are just doing the finishing touches before handing it over to government in two weeks. There will be a lot of complaints and frustrations as with any process of job losses. It has been emotional for me and the workers to part.
“I treated my employees well and paid them above local rates. I am sure you have never heard them complaining over pay when the project was in motion. It’s only now that you hear stories. Some of these people had turned into bread winners overnight and that has stopped. What do you expect?
“Many were earning P3 000 and less at their former employers and I doubled and tripled that. Aren’t they being ungrateful? I wish we could continue. I love engineering. It is my passion, and if I had my way with this project, I would say ok let’s continue but I don’t. The project has come to an end and we all should accept that. As they say, goodbyes are never easy.”
Khato labourers confirm that indeed they walked away with P10 000 per month from the company, saying they were not prepared for the sudden end of the project and therefore their wages.
But Phiri says he made all attempts to provide advice and counselling to the employees, “I was always in the trenches with these people,” he said. “They were my friends. We had discussions on these issues and the challenges that generally accompany project completions, especially the financial side of things. The company provided counselling to them.”
Phiri noted that he has the contacts of both current and former employees and will explore how and where he can deploy them in some of his projects. “I have met hard working and committed Batswana in this project, just as I have met bad, corrupt and lazy people,” he said. “Trust me, I know all of them one by one because I was in the trenches with them on a daily basis.”
The Masama-Mmamashia 100km pipeline project, which started in June 2020, employed well trained and qualified young engineers, architects and mechanics as well as labourers, most of whom were residents of villages situated along the pipeline.