Total Zimbabwe courts controversy

 Total Zimbabwe courts controversy
Published: 28 April 2019
ONE of the country's largest petroleum companies, Total Zimbabwe has infuriated a number of its dealers, who are alleging that the company is willy-nilly changing the terms of their contracts.

The dealers who spoke on terms of anonymity alleged that Total Zimbabwe was unilaterally changing the agreed contract terms with them, with new terms and conditions having been implemented without mutual agreement.

They said among the new terms is the retirement age whereby a dealer gets retired upon reaching 65 years and the service station is taken away from them.

Named among the dealers who operate more than one station are former Mashonaland West provincial minister Webster Shamu and his wife Constance, along with Zanu-PF Mashonaland East provincial chairperson Ray Kaukonde.

Dealers who were once given what is called the evergreen contract where they can operate more than one station are also being told that they have to remain with one and surrender the rest without paying compensation.

"I do not have a problem with them trying to empower other young dealers but that should be done amicably where they propose that those financial dealers willing to sell the stations can do so without forcing everyone to surrender the stations," said an aggrieved dealer.

"If the management have decided to change how it operates with dealers, it should implement those changes on new contracts for those young dealers who are coming in, not to reverse terms with old dealers who have been there for more than 10 years.

"I have been a financial dealer and operating Total for more than 10 years and all of a sudden the contract has suddenly changed without any mutual understanding. When l bought shares at Total, l did not sign up for these new ridiculous terms."

Another source added that among new terms and condition is the relocation of dealers after every six years.

In other words, no dealer should operate the same station for more than six years.

"What is happening here is that Total is treating us like mere employees not like serious business partners," said the source.

"We are being used for Total's own gain yet the deal should benefit both parties."

Contacted for comment, Shamu's wife Constance denied that she owns more than one station, saying she will only discuss her grievances with Total not the media.

"If l own a service station and someone else in the family owns a station too, it doesn't mean l own more than one because l am an independent individual," she lashed out.

"I don't own more than one service station for the record."

On the other hand, Kaukonde did not deny that he owns more than one station but just said he is not aware of the development.

"I'm not aware of the situation, l don't know anything about it. I haven't received the contract as yet," Kaukonde said.  

"Maybe the director of operations might know what is going on but as for me am clueless."

Contacted for comment, Total Zimbabwe managing director Ronan Bescomb denied the allegations of repossession of stations, saying there are no dealers at Total who own more than one service station and that he knows nothing about the so-called new contract terms.

"Total Zimbabwe has 100 service stations across the country which provide quality fuel, lubricants, LPG, and other services such as garages, car wash and restaurants.   Our partnership with our dealers is the cornerstone of our business and we continue to maintain a permanent and constructive dialogue with them."

The company communications officer Ashirayi Maphosa added that Total is open for dialogue with its dealers to come and discuss their grievances and queries as the company thrives on good relations with its dealers.

"So far we are hearing the complaints coming via the media but none of the dealers has approached us showing discontentment," Maphosa said.

Most of the dealers interviewed said they were afraid to openly air their grievances for fear of victimisation.

"We are being short-changed but the situation isn't giving us much option, we are terrified to fight Total because it is a global entity with vast resources to fight us in court," said another dealer.   

"Some dealers who had been wronged in the past just walked away and those who tried fighting Total went bankrupt.

"Total wants to portray a face to the world that they are empowering locals yet in the real sense they are ripping them off and using those people for more profit retention."

Total is a major energy player, which produces and markets fuels, natural gas and low-carbon electricity with 100 000 employees globally.

The energy player is active in more than 130 countries.

Having produced oil and gas for nearly a century, Total has also branched out into renewable energies and electric power.

"Our shareholders play a key role in growing our business. Their trust and loyalty supports the development and financial strength of Total over the long term," Total said.

The Affirmative Action Group (AAG) – an indigenous lobby group – said Total Zimbabwe should consider the implications of its decision on dealers' livelihoods before repossessing some of the service stations.

"These people are not their employees but they are independent dealers who should be treated as business partners. This should not be accepted because we do not want a business that becomes a law unto itself. A business should not benefit Total at the expense of dealers," said David Todson Gomo, the chief executive officer of the AAG.

"If they do not rectify their mistake soon they will be forcing the arms of the government to intervene in matters that in normal circumstances they should not be involved in," he added.
- dailynews
Tags: Total,


Latest News

Latest Published Reports

Latest jobs