A group of 14 black workers who were employed as drivers and were promised heaven and earth via owner/driver type Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) scheme claim to have suffered gross abuse over the past 15 years in what may pass as one of the worst forms of BEE fronting.
Launched with R50 000 per worker contribution which was sourced from the drivers’ pension fund pay-outs, the scheme, according to some of the workers, has left them destitute. Some of these workers are said to be deceased and their course is pursued by their off springs. Here follows their story in their own words:
In 2001 we (the group of drivers) were at risk of losing our jobs because our employer of ages, Dollar Wind, was set to outsource the logistics part of its business. A kind hearted general manager, Mr Kobus Erasmus, devised an empowerment plan by establishing an owner-driver type black economic empowerment (BEE) operation. We took R50 000 from our pension fund pay-outs to invest in the new BEE business, Dollar Wind Drivers Empowerment Company (DWDEC), with each driver having an equal share of about 7.14 %. This R50 000 represented about 50% of total pension pay out. As we did not have business management experience, a Mr Kobus Botha from Cleaver Transport was brought in as an administrator to assist and transfer skills for a period of 6 months. A Union leader was also appointed to represent us. The results of the 15 years old empowerment initiative are at best disappointing and at worst an abuse of black workers under the guise of BEE. No skills were transferred to the black drivers at all. Mr Botha continued running our company for much longer than initially planned. While running our company, Mr Botha along with others established their own company, Ruccus Logistics, and positioned this entity as a management company (Manco) of sort that was to earn shares at a later stage. We, the founding driver/shareholders, objected were overruled by the union representative and directors.
The union representative who was supposed to represent the drivers became a shareholder and director in the company which in our opinion made for an ugly case of conflict of interests.
This union leader was much later stripped off the shares and was dismissed. A new union leader was subsequently inserted as a representative of the drivers/shareholders and also came to behave against the interest of the people he is supposed to represent.
The introduction of the Manco in 2005 served to siphon money out of the operation through exorbitant service fees and salaries. The result was that DWDEC was left with no money to pay dividend to the BEE shareholders. We, the driver/shareholders, only received dividends 3 times from the start of our company and not totalling more than R30 000 per BEE shareholder, whereas the administrators and Rucus were paid good money.
In 2005, Mr Botha brought in another person, Mr George Swanepoel, to run our business. And then 50% of DWDEC was taken from us. This occurred after DWDEC wanted to buy a fleet from Dollar Air. We were told that DWDEC could not raise the funding needed to acquire this fleet. And so Mr Swanepoel and Mr Botha decided to use Ruccus as surety in order to get finance and in return they demanded that 50% of DWDEC will now belong to Ruccus. No proof of this was ever made available and our objections were overruled by the union representative/shareholder/director.
Along the way Ruccus purchased the shares from some of us, driver/shareholders, for as little as R15 000 knowing that we had paid R50 000 to acquire these shares.
These self-appointed directors and shareholders are also refusing us access to information about our company. Request to see bank statements, list of business contracts, employee list, company structure and remuneration practices have been rejected under the reasoning that releasing such information will be putting the company at risk.
We have asked: how many contracts does the company have? The answer we were given is One Contract. But a simple google search suggests that our company also has contracts with a considerable number of major corporations. We have also learned that our company has operations that services mines in Kathu.
Now these self-appointed directors have made an offer to buy us out DWDEC, using Ruccus, for R70 000.
If there is anyone out there that can assist us to see justice, please help.
Note from ProBonoMatters
Names of affected persons have been provisionally disguised by ProBonoMatters in the interest of fairness. The names will remain disguised for a week to allow for the process of soliciting a right of reply from parties implicated in the story. We do this to satisfy ourselves that we have reached a fair balance between the victims’ account and replies from implicated parties. We will in a week’s time lift the veil and expose the real names of implicated parties. We will moderate the account if needs be.