FRANCISTOWN: Matsiloje Portland Cement (MPC), one of only two homegrown cement producers in the country, is eyeing a return to production by the end of the year following its closure in 2018. Managing director Rachit Josh told BusinessWeek the company was 'very optimistic' it could resume operations and was currently in talks with a reputable investor with a view of entering into a partnership to re-open the plant. “I cannot comment on what the exact situation is regarding the plant but at this stage we are closed,” he said in an interview this week. “However, we are actively seeking an investor and once this is done then we hope to restart the plant by end of this year.”
The plant, which is owned by Nortex Textiles, closed in January 2018 due to competition from South African imports with 150 people losing their jobs. For years before its closure, MPC had recorded a string of losses.
MPC had an annual turnover of around P20 million and produced 30,000 tonnes of cement per annum. The company also produced the lime it used for its cement. It sourced other raw materials from Morupule (fly ash) and South Africa.
In 2018, Josh said that the company had constantly reduced prices to keep up with the competition until it reached a point where the executive felt that it was not sustainable to continue running the business.
“We had hoped that the business environment would change for the better, but things did go not as we had anticipated," he said then.
He added that there was a lack of support for their business from both the government through initiatives such as the Economic Diversification Drive (EDD) and big players in the construction industry.
Meanwhile, the Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) has called on South African firm PPC Ltd to make a written undertaking that no jobs will be lost when the company sells its 100 per cent shareholding in PPC Aggregate Quarries Botswana Proprietary Ltd to Danoher Botswana. The union also said that all outstanding labour matters between PPC and its workers should be resolved prior to the conclusion of the sale transaction.
PPC Aggregates has outstanding industrial labour matters before the District Labour Office and a Court of Appeal case in respect of annual wage increments for 2019-2020. In addition, the company has a pending case before the High Court over payment of retrenchment packages owed and due to employees following the acquisition of Quarries of Botswana a few years ago.
“We call on the Competition Authority to conduct a thorough vetting of merger and acquisition applications by mining and quarrying companies and to introduce public hearings of these processes to ensure that all interested parties, including the union, are allowed to make submissions in respect of transactions,” reads the statement from the BMWU.