Mumias Sugar workers, farmers accuse Sarrai Group of failing to honour agreement 

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. Mumias Sugar workers and sugarcane farmers have once again accused the Sarrai Group of failing to honour its promises to pay their dues. 

Photo credit: Isaac Wale | Nation Media Group

Mumias Sugar workers and sugarcane farmers have once again accused the Sarrai Group of failing to honour its promises to pay their dues. 

The workers and farmers who converged outside the sugar miller premises said the Uganda-based firm has not paid salary arrears and sugarcane supplied about three years ago despite promising to do so.

The farmers said when Sarrai Group took over the operations of the miller, it promised to help farmers.

“Mumias collapsed when I had just supplied sugarcane worth Sh340, 000 in 2018 June. When Sarrai Group came in, they sat down with us farmers and promised to pay our dues but that has never happened. I now don’t have money to maintain my 20-acre piece of land that has sugarcane. I have suffered to an extent I cannot pay school fees for my children,” one of the farmers said. 

The Chairman of former Mumias Sugar employees Patrick Mutimba said Sarrai Group has locked them out of the premises despite owing them millions of shillings in salary arrears.

“Workers have been chased from their houses despite labour laws saying you cannot be locked out of your place of work until all your dues have been paid. We have not been paid since 2019. Our children have dropped out of school and they are now chasing us away from the servants’ quarters and we do not have money to pay rent elsewhere. Sarrai cannot even allow us to have our meeting inside Mumias factory,” Mutimba said. 

Breaching agreement

The workers also accused Sarrai Group of breaching an agreement that would have seen former workers retained at the company.

They said the agreement signed in December 2021 required Sarrai to absorb former employees once they take over.

The farmers also accused local politicians whom they claimed had colluded with Sarrai Group to frustrate them.

Sarrai Group Operations Manager Stephen Kihumba last month said the money they are demanding can only be paid by Mumias Sugar Company Receiver Manager PVR Rao.

“Strikes by people who portray themselves to be employees of Mumias Sugar Company are meant to paint us in bad light,” Mr Kihumba said.

“These people worked for the former management and we – Sarrai Group – don’t know them anything. The association is directing its concerns to the wrong management and administration.”

The Sarrai Group had been stopped by the Court of Appeal from operating the sugar miller until a case lodged against it is heard and determined.

The court upheld April 14, 2022, ruling that directed the Ugandan firm to vacate the milling company premises.
Three appellate court judges said the applicants had demonstrated an appeal will be rendered nugatory in case the execution is not stayed during the hearing of the case.

“In the upshot, the notice of motion dated 27th April 2022 is allowed to the extent only that there will be the stay of execution of the ruling dated 14th April 2022,” the judges ruled on September 23.

The three judges were J. Mohammed, S. Ole Kantai and Asike Makhandia. The ruling locked Sarrai out of Mumias Sugar premises.

In the April ruling, the High Court judge Justice Alfred Mabeya in Nairobi cancelled the Sarrai Group’s 20-year lease to operate Mumias Sugar Company.

Mabeya further appointed Kereto Marima as the new administrator of Mumias Sugar Company and ordered Rao to hand over the company to Marima.

"This court has considered the allegations made against the leasing process. Rao awarded the lease to the lowest bidder (Sarrai Group) while there were higher bidders, without giving any justifiable explanation,” the judge ruled.