Bhadella Wholesalers closes shop

One of Mutare’s leading and oldest wholesalers — Bhadella Wholesalers —which has been operating in the eastern border city for more than eight decades has closed shop, amid a lot of controversy and speculation.

Bhadella Wholesalers closed shop last week after eight decades of operation. The closure affected 130 workers and a number of small-scale operators who were getting their supplies from the wholesaler
Bhadella Wholesalers closed shop last week after eight decades of operation. The closure affected 130 workers and a number of small-scale operators who were getting their supplies from the wholesaler

Close to 130 workers — 69 of them permanent employees and the rest on contract — have been thrown on to the streets. When The Manica Post visited the wholesaler on Wednesday morning, traders who had come to buy goods were surprised to see gates into the premises closed.

A security guard manning the entrance turned them away, saying the shop had been closed for business. One of the company’s directors, Mr Tuffy Bhadella, could not say much when he was asked why the 82-year-old business had closed.

“It is best that you talk to our lawyers because they are the ones handling the case. I will not say anything at the moment. The shop is closed and you get the facts and reasons from the lawyers,” he said.

Bhadella’s Harare-based lawyer, Mr Everson Samukange, of Venturas and Samukange Legal Practitioners, said the closure of the company was related to the harsh economic environment obtaining in the country.

“They can’t operate profitably when they are competing with informal traders who are smuggling goods into the country and selling them at give away prices. This has resulted in much of Bhadella’s stock remaining untraded in the shop because people are opting for cheaper items sold outside. So it is no longer viable to operate.”

Mr Samukange said the Bhadella family did not want to close the shop and they tried to source for funds to recapitalise, but the obtaining situation did not guarantee profitability.

“Even if they get the funds, the informal traders will still be there and it will be back to square one,” he said.

Coming to the plight of retrenched workers, Mr Samukange said the issue was being handled professionally and everyone stands to benefit.

“We are addressing that issue very well. Our aim is that every employee will get a package that is in line with the number of years served. We are not going to take into account the issue of dollarisation which happened in 2009. What we are simply going to do is to calculate the number of years served by an employee and calculate that with the current salary they are receiving. It will be a fair deal. Those who are peddling information that is contrary to what I am saying are not telling the truth,” he said.

However, sources conversant with the goings-on at the wholesaler claimed that the closure of the business had to do with family problems rocking the owners as well as viability concerns. They alleged that stark disagreements had emerged between the directors of the company in respect of control and management of finances.

To this end, they said, the wholesaler owed suppliers more than $3 million, while the stock at hand was valued at less than $1 million.

“We had reached a point where suppliers were no longer supplying us with products because we owed them money. At the end of the day we failed to have some products in stock,” said the source.

Workers are also pressing to be paid severance packages which are in tandem with the period they worked for the company. Some of them revealed that they were still negotiating with management to ensure that they were given fair packages.

“I have been working here since my youthful days and I have now grown grey hair. I deserve a better handshake for the services I rendered to this company,” said one of the employees who requested anonymity.

Suppliers were busy loading remaining items that were still in the wholesale for resale elsewhere. Interviewed traders said the closure of the business had a telling effect on retailers who were customers at the wholesaler.

“Since we were young, we knew that there is Bhadella Wholesalers because during the days when we had tuck-shops in high-density suburbs we used to come and buy products here. Now that we have evolved and running big businesses we are still buying from here. This closure pains us and something must be done,” said a trader who chose not to be named. Manica Post

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