Awakening the sleeping minister' mess
MBABANE – The company that abandoned plans to set up shop in Swaziland because of a ‘sleeping minister’ is Jonsson Group (Pty) Limited.
It is based in Durban, South Africa.
A Cabinet minister was on Thursday reported to Premier Sibusiso Barnabas Dlamini for having failed to attend a meeting with the company’s Chairman and CEO Nicholas Jonsson because he/she was home sleeping.
This excuse by the minister cost the country around 300 jobs as the company took its business elsewhere.
Jonsson Group, according to its website, has five subsidiary and associated companies that deal in manufacturing, wholesale and distribution of corporate and workwear clothing.
These subsidiaries include Jonsson Workwear (Pty) Ltd which specialises in the wholesale and distribution of workwear throughout Southern Africa and internationally; Jonsson Uniform Solutions (Pty) Ltd which specialises in the design and supply of corporate clothing; Thousand Hills Clothing (Pty) Ltd that manufactures clothing on a cut, make and trim basis; Jonsson Busara Marketing (Pty) Ltd, a private company which is dormant and B. Jonsson Manufacturing Company (Pty) Ltd which sells workwear and related products in Southern Africa.
The company is reported to have approached the Swaziland Investment Promotion Authority in 2010 with the intention of opening business in the country.
Editor of the Nation magazine, Bheki Makhubu, told the PM that after having spoken to SIPA, the company’s chairman flew into Swaziland to meet with the authority.
The meeting was reportedly held in one of the country’s five-star hotels in Ezulwini. Firstly, Makhubu said the SIPA officials were late for that meeting despite knowing well in advance of the important gathering.
"When they eventually met with the investor, they then called the minister to attend as well but they got an excuse that he/she was sleeping and could not make it," Makhubu said.
Such action by the minister is said to have disappointed the investor so much that he left and never came back to Swaziland.
The PM, when told of this by Makhubu, appeared concerned and apologised to the investor.
He said they would make plans to contact the businessman and, if possible, invite him to come back to the kingdom. Of the sleeping minister, he said it would be sad if the allegation turned out to be true because he knew his team of Cabinet ministers to be workaholics who woke up early.
"The minister should have apo-logised for not being able to attend the meeting instead of using the excuse of being asleep," the PM said.
He said in any case, the investor should have used the government hierarchy to report his misgivings.
The company that was supposed to meet with the minister had by yesterday not responded to questions sent to it last week Friday.
Minister likely to escape any action
MBABANE – As things stood yesterday, the cabinet minister looks likely to escape any action for the alleged lost jobs.
Government Press Secretary, Percy Simelane, said the prime minister had not been given the name of the implicated minister.
"If it calls for the prime minister to identify the minister, it will be done, but up to now no effort has been made along those lines," Simelane told the Times.
The government spokesman said for action to be taken against the minister, Government General Orders would have to be consulted to find out what offence this amounted to and the kind of action that would have to be taken. "For now there is no evidence to suggest that the minister would have to be spoken to," Simelane said.
A cabinet minister to whom the Times was informed was the one accused of being the ‘sleeping minister’ also disputed the allegation. "Since you are alleging this; please let me know where and when such a thing happened? Who made this appointment with me and how did whoever is alleging that I was asleep get to find that out? For the record: no such thing happened, I honour all my known appointments as a matter of principle and work ethic!
"If for whatever reason I need to change a set appointment, the other party is notified in time," the minister said. The minister continued: "This is true for all appointments that I know about.
"So please prove to me when this one was made as I do not have knowledge of it. Logically nawe nawucabanga nje (If you also think carefully); could it be possible that a person would have an appointment with someone who has come to help them, and the person decides to sleep instead? Please!"
The minister went on to state that "for the record too; my daily routine typically starts much earlier than the said time, so I would suggest you try another one, this is a non-starter. Never happened! No one ever told me I have an appointment with him.
In conclusion, the minister said: "Also please tell me how can anyone know that I was asleep any day, except (if) they were in my house? Because logic says; if I’m sleeping I won’t answer the phone, so how then can you determine that I’m sleeping? I’m bemused by this allegation, totally gob- smacked."
... how company struggled for 2yrs
MBABANE – For almost two years, Jonsson Group (Pty) Limited struggled to set up a factory locally.
The long wait resulted in the South Africa-based company taking the business initiative to Lesotho where it opened a new factory and employed 300 people.
From July 2010 to February 2012, the Swaziland Investment Promotion Authority (SIPA) reportedly failed to allocate Jonsson Group factory space near Mbabane or Manzini for its operations.
Instead, the company, after the long wait, was told by SIPA that it had been apportioned a piece of land at Ebuhleni in the northern Hhohho region. Documents in the possession of the Times show that Chairman and CEO of the company Nicholas Jonsson became dissatisfied with SIPA. In a letter dated February 24, 2012 from former SIPA CEO Phiwayinkhosi Ginindza to Jonsson thanked the latter "for considering Swaziland as a preferred destination for expansion of your business".
"It gives me great pleasure Sir, to advise you that there is a 6 000 square metre factory situated at Ebuhleni area, in the Hhohho region, which has been allocated to you. The current tenant is moving out their equipment and the factory will be ready from 1st March 2012. I have enclosed here pictures of the factory. I would appreciate if you can send a team to inspect the factory and meet us to discuss a way forward. I trust you will find the above in order," Ginindza wrote in the correspondence to Jonsson.
In response, Jonsson said to say he was surprised by the letter would be an understatement because since July 2010, "the entire process had been handled extremely inefficiently". He said firstly, they had made it clear there were certain factors that needed approval prior to investing in Swaziland, but such had not yet been confirmed.
"Secondly, we made it clear to SIPA that we wanted to be in or very near Mbabane or Manzini. I have no idea where this property that you refer to is, but the area doesn’t sound familiar. Furthermore, we certainly do not need a 6 000 square metre factory," the company chairman and CEO said.
He further wrote: "Lastly, but certainly not least, we waited an inordinately long time for SIPA to deal with our requirements and finally could not wait any longer. We opened a factory in Lesotho in August 2011 which already employs around 300 people, which was what we intended for Swaziland."
Jonsson said after the way their business proposal was handled, the general feeling they have now is that Swaziland seemed an inefficient place "and we felt nervous to invest any capital there".
Our Minister's heads grow big that they start to dictate terms to the national duty, that which is their responsibility. The way I see it this minister was playing big in a failing economy like Swaziland's. Her main issue was ''appointment''. So, madam Minister wanted the investor to beg her to attend the said meeting. This is what happened when people are put in power to represent undemocratic constituencies. And I am affraid nothing will ever happen to the minister. This case is no unique as there are many investors who turned away because the Swazi side is not serious when treating investors.
Jun 18, 2012, 8:13 AM, Disgraced!
Why should we appear to be surprised because we know that 'there is no hurry in SD.'This is a country who's political stability thrives on poverty,'the poorer the people, the easier to govern.' Who can have the power to challenge well fed people with an empty stomach? I guess this is the minister of Enterprise and Employment, again I think he was asleep because he had eaten enough the previous night. It is not easy to fall asleep when hungry 'mncwi' I know what I'm talking about. Imust say that if this is true, 'your sleep is costing the nation Mr minister.' I pity the 300 people who were going to get employed,'pho kuphi?'
Jun 18, 2012, 8:13 AM, Bonga Ground (email@example.com)
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