SKY Country South Africa have distanced themselves from the scandal in which a Chinese meat wholesaler was recently arrested for allegedly selling rotten meat.
In the aftermath of the dramatic police Wednesday raid of a Maseru butchery and the subsequent arrest of its Chinese owner, Chen Jin Song, the media was awash with stories that Sky Country stores in Lesotho had been shut down for exposing the public to health risks through the sale of rotten meat.
It was even reported that Sky Country had previously found themselves on the wrong side of the law for a similar offence in 2013 when the then Trade Minister, Temeki Tšolo, ordered one of ‘their’ Maseru butcheries to be shut down.
However, the South African company yesterday dismissed any involvement in the meat scandal, saying they do not own butcheries or any other retail outlets in Lesotho.
In a statement to the Sunday Express, Sky Country director, Jaco Coetsee, said they did not even have franchises in Lesotho and the stores which were said to be theirs were in fact owned by a company called Shake Universary International.
Mr Coetsee said their only relationship with the Lesotho outlets was that of supplier and client as the latter sourced their meat products from them and other clients in Lesotho.
“The media incorrectly reported on Thursday 11 May 2018 that Sky Country stores were closed due to health and safety reasons,” Mr Coetsee said.
“The stores in question are owned by Shake Universary International. These stores commonly became known as ‘Sky Country’ stores in Lesotho since the majority of products offered are Sky Country’s products.
“The stores in question are owned and managed by Mr Chen Jin Song and are in no way controlled and/or franchised by Sky Country South Africa. Sky Country merely supplies various clients in Lesotho and unfortunately has very limited control over how their products are managed and handled, once exported to Lesotho.
“Sky Country is a proud South African producer of quality processed meat products since 2001. It thus regrets the potential confusion related to the quality of Sky Country’s products created by the closure of a wholesaler’s shops and the incorrect media reports.”
On Wednesday, police who were accompanied by the Trade Minister, Tefo Mapesela, raided Mr Chen’s butchery which is widely known as the Sky Country Butchery.
The police then tied up Mr Chen with shoe laces despite his pleas that this was unnecessary as he was not resisting arrest.
Mr Mapesela subsequently that “all Sky Country stores will be closed in the country”.
He said he would not allow ‘Sky Country’ to put the public’s health at risk through “selling unwholesome and expired food products”.
However, Mr Coetsee said that Sky Country only sold quality plant and products that “are regularly tested according to health and safety standards and exceed the regulatory requirements”.
“All Sky Country products are packaged under a barcode label also indicating the `Sell-by’ date. If the barcode label is not present, it is unlikely to be a Sky Country product.
“Customers, experiencing a problem with a Sky Country product, are invited to contact the company by including the information on the barcode label per e-mail to email@example.com or to phone Portia Nthunya at +2751 873 3003 during office hours,” Mr Coetsee said.
Mr Coetsee also pledged his company’s “full support and cooperation to any investigation and audit” that Lesotho would undertake.