MBL Holdings Limited, the parent company of Mulli Brothers Limited, has downsized its workforce by about 60 percent since mid-2012 due to what its managing director Leston Mulli claimed is government’s tactics to stifle its businesses.
But Malawi’s Minister of Information Brown Mpinganjira, who is also government’s spokerperson, on Sunday said he has no knowledge of that.
Mulli told The Naton last week that government is punishing the conglomerate by not paying it billions of kwacha it is owed and is also being sidelined in the award of government contracts.
He said this state of affairs has affected its businesses’ performance leading to the scaling down of its activities and employees, arguing that in 2013 alone, they had to cut jobs by about 25 percent.
Mid-last year, the company announced that it had laid off more than 5 000 workers due to, “hostile business environment”.
MBL Holdings has more than 15 subsidiary companies that includes Celcom Malawi Limited, Smallholder Tea Company (Steco), Chitakale Tea Estates, National Bus Company and Thuchila Estate and Lodge. Mulli said all they think about is business to make money and create employment for the people, but that the environment in 2012 and last year was not conducive for their businesses.
“We cannot give up because no one knows about tomorrow. We tried to maintain all our businesses and employees, but because of other conditions, we scaled down in some areas.
“The sanctions against us by government have affected us so much. We struggled a lot in payments and most payments were made late and those who could not survive left us,” he said.
Mulli said their labour force has drastically been reduced and that most “fortune-seekers” could not contain the situation, observing that those that are strong and understand situations are still with the companies and are getting their benefits
In reaction to Mulli’s claims, Mpinganjira said: “I don’t know that they are being sidelined. Let me consult relevant government ministries on that.”
In September 2012, former minister of Justice and Constitution Affairs Ralph Kasambara issued a directive on September 5 2012 stopping all government ministries, departments and agencies from dealing with MBL Holdings Limited.
The argument was that giving government business to MBL Holdings would jeopardise investigations into alleged corruption, money laundering and tax evasion charges against the company and Mulli himself.
But some government agencies such as Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), Malawi Police Service and Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) who were supposed to be helping the Justice Ministry in the investigations feigned ignorance on the matter.
But Mulli said they did not close any of the 17 companies in Malawi and that everything went as planned despite below par performance in almost all local businesses.
“We have been diversifying in business and we opened more businesses outside Malawi. We have done very well outside the country and it is sad that we lost a lot at home, but we are not very worried because we know the reasons,” he said, adding that they performed exceptionally well in Mozambique.
Meanwhile, MBL Holdings this year is planning to establish a head office outside Malawi.