MASERU — Details are beginning to emerge on the real reason why Nando’s South Africa closed its only franchise restaurant in Maseru earlier this month.
For the past three weeks the directors of Maseru Pollo which owned the Nandos’ franchise in Lesotho have been evasive on why the restaurant abruptly closed its doors on July 9.
In an interview with the Lesotho Times last week Paull de Freitas, a director of Maseru Pollo, said the eatery had been “temporarily closed pending ongoing operational negotiations between us and thehead office in Johannesburg”.
“The closure had nothing to do with the violation of regulations. In fact we have not violated any regulations.
“We have only had two customer complaints for the past four years,” de Freitas said.
He then added that apart from the “ongoing investigations” with the Nando’s SA, the franchiser, the restaurant had “temporarily” closed because the new computerised declaration system at the border had delayed supplies.
His explanation however does not tally with what the company has told employees.
On July 16, seven days after the restaurant was closed, Maseru Pollo wrote a letter to 20 employees giving the real reason it had closed.
In that letter the company said nothing about the “pending ongoing operational regulation negotiations between us and the head office in Johannesburg”.
Instead it said “Nando’s Maseru was forcefully closed by the franchiser (Nando’s SA) for non-conformance with the franchiser’s systems and procedures during inspections/ audits held at the store over the past six months prior to closure”.
This seems to suggest that by the time de Freitas was talking about the ongoing “negotiations” and the new system as the border, Nando’s had already closed the restaurant for good.
Workers at the restaurant told this paper that at a meeting on July 16 the management also told them that the restaurant had closed for good.
There was no mention of negotiations with Nando’s SA or the delays at the border, the employees said.
The letter to the employees explained that their contracts were being terminated.
“They (employees) will be paid worked days and overtime, leave days due and long service for the ones working more than one year (sic),” says the letter signed by Amanda de Freitas, the managing director.
Meanwhile, former employees have sought intervention from labour unions after the company allegedly failed to pay their salaries.
Disgruntled workers who spoke to this paper on Friday said they were told in a meeting with the management on Monday that they would not get their full salaries this month.
“We had a meeting with the management and we were told that we will be paid the nine days that we worked, long service for those who worked there for longer than a year and refunds for deductions that were made as uniform security,” said one of the employees who spoke on condition of anonymity.
She said the closure had caught them unawares.
“We had started preparations for the day’s work when suddenly we were sent outside.
“We saw branding boards being removed from the walls. We were told that the shop was closing with immediate effect.
“They said they would call us to tell us what will happen next.”
“It is not fair that we lost our jobs without any warning. It is even worse that they do not give us our full salaries.
“It is not our fault that the shop closed. They should have at least given us full salaries for this month and for the coming two months while we are still looking for other jobs,” said another employee.
De freitas had told the Lesotho Times last week that employees would get their full salaries this month.
“We are in a tight situation with the employees but they will get their salaries at the end of the month.
“Whatever happens they will be taken care of,” de Freitas had said.
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