Mumias staff want Sarrai Group gone

Police officers disperse protesting Mumias workers union members at their offices in Mumias

Police officers disperse protesting Mumias workers union members at their offices in Mumias on October 13, 2022.

Photo credit: Isaac Wale | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The workers also accused Sarrai Group of importing workers from Uganda to work at the sugar miller. 
  • The new development comes two weeks after Sarrai Group was stopped by the Court of Appeal from operating the sugar miller until a case lodged against it is heard and determined. 
  • The Court of Appeal temporarily upheld the High Court ruling dated on April 14, 2022, that locked out Sarrai Group from Mumias Sugar Company.

Police yesterday disrupted a meeting of Mumias Sugar Company workers who wanted President William Ruto to find a suitable investor to take over the running of the troubled miller.

The over 300 workers had demanded the removal of the Uganda-based Sarrai Group, who took over the lease, on allegations of mistreatment of employees.

They also wanted to be paid salary arrears amounting to Sh2.3 billion, which has been pending since 2018. Mumias Sugar Workers Union Chairman Patrick Mutimba urged President Ruto to intervene and address their plight.

The workers, who held a meeting outside the Kenya Union Sugarcane Plantation and Allied Workers office, alleged massive mismanagement of the factory since the new investor took over in a controversial Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) receivership deal that was rocked by numerous court actions.

They claimed salaries and other dues owed to workers haven’t been paid by Sarai Group despite committing to do so through their official bid document.

Police officers disperse protesting Mumias workers union members at their offices in Mumias.

Police officers disperse protesting Mumias workers union members at their offices in Mumias on October 13, 2022.

Photo credit: Isaac Wale | Naation Media Group

“Mumias Sugar requires your urgent intervention Mr President because people are being mistreated by a Ugandan. The dirty games being played in Mumias should not happen under your leadership,” he added.

The workers accused Sarrai Group of bringing people from Uganda and India to take over jobs that would have benefited the local community.

Workers are also questioning the controversial leasing of the Mumias Sugar nucleus land. They allege that Sarai Group has appropriated more than 8,000 acres almost for free.

“The average price of land in Mumias now is Sh700,000. Multiplied by 8,000 acres, the value is Sh5.6 billion but Sarrai is getting it almost at no cost,” Mr Mutimba said. The workers have accused KCB of ignoring their plight yet it is in charge of administering the affairs of Mumias through Receiver Manager Ramana Rao.

“Mr Rao has never bothered to meet key stakeholders and give proper explanations,” said the union’s Secretary-General Vitalis Makokha.

Other concerns raised by the workers include statutory deductions including National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF), National Social Security Fund (NSSF).

Mumias Sugar was placed under receivership after falling into technical insolvency with total liabilities outstripping total assets by Sh14.39 billion. Mr Rao identified Sarrai Group to protect assets and restore operations at the new life to the once thriving miller that provided livelihoods to thousands of residents.

Mumias workers Union secretary general Mumias branch Vitalis Makokha

Mumias workers Union secretary general Mumias branch Vitalis Makokha addressing the press at their offices in Mumias during a meeting on October 13, 2022, where he disclosed that the Sarai group has not paid Mumias Sugar Company workers Sh2.3 billion in arrears. 

Photo credit: Isaac Wale | Nation Media Group

In April this year, the High Court cancelled the lease to Sarrai to operate Mumias Sugar Company and ordered it to leave the premises. This was after other bidders moved to court arguing that the leasing process was neither fair nor transparent.

Sarrai had secured a 20-year lease for Mumias Sugar assets, promising to turn around the fortunes of the miller.

But despite the legal injunction, Sarrai Group continued to operate and, in July, crushing resumed after a five-year hiatus.

On September 29, the Sarrai Group got a reprieve after the Court of Appeal temporarily suspended the High Court's decision to kick out the investor.

Justice Wilfrida Okwany who was hearing a contempt of court application against Sarrai Group for going on with operations at the company, withdrew from the case citing several reasons, including her transfer from the Commercial Division. Her withdrawal follows that of Commercial Division Presiding Judge Justice Mabeya, who disqualified himself from the case in July.