BENEDICT TEMBO, Lusaka
THEY say workers are drivers of the economy, and it goes without saying that they must be rewarded for their contribution to the wealth of a nation, let alone a company.
To ensure that business entities fulfil their obligations to honour employeesâ€™ hard work, the labour movement world over commemorates workersâ€™ contributions every year on May 1, otherwise known as Labour Day.
Labour Day is an occasion to celebrate the contribution of workers in the just-ended year.
It is also an occasion when employers reward deserving employees by lavishing them with gifts and certificates.
Although May 1 is the designated day for the commemoration, some employers hold it way after that date. Yet the impact is the same.
One company has not only chosen its unique month to celebrate the input of its workers to the success story but has gone out of the box to honour them.
Mount Meru Group Zambia last year set a record by giving out six vehicles to six employees as tokens of appreciation in growing the company to what it is today.
Mt Meru Group currently has two subsidiaries â€“ petroleum â€“ the third biggest in the country and millers â€“ the producers of the acclaimed Soyola cooking oil.
The company has upheld its tradition of rewarding deserving employees with vehicles.
On Sunday, five employees walked away with car keys for Toyota Allion during the companyâ€™s 2015 annual party at the companyâ€™s state-of-the-art office complex in Lusakaâ€™s Roma township.
The party, attended by the Mount Meru Group founder and chairperson Tarsem Chand Aggarwal, Group managing director Arvind Mittal and the Zambian chief executive officer, Himanshu Shah, also saw several workers receive certificates of recognition for their contribution to the growth of the company.
Yvonne Chimbala Zulu was the first winner of the vehicle and was pleasantly surprised when she was called to the stage to receive the emblem of a key.
An accounts executive who has worked with Mt Meru for seven years, Mrs Zulu thanked God for the award.
She extolled her superiors who include Zambian chief executive officer Himanshu Shah, director David Chaponda for the confidence reposed in him and Mayuiri Shah, the head of finance for the confidence she gave her.
â€œI am at a loss, I thought I was dreaming when my name was called,â€ remarked Tayani Chelu, the training manager who was the second beneficiary of the car.
Alinedy Banda, Lumumba Road Station manager thanked his workmates and his supervisor Chintubhai Sha for believing in her.
â€œHe (Chintu Shah) has always believed in me, he strengthens me even when I am weak,â€ Ms Banda said, thanking God for the award.
Head of marketing Gauresh Rana was more shocked when the Groupâ€™s founder and chairperson Tarsem Chand Aggarwal awarded his wife, Parul, a car.
This is in recognition of Mr Ranaâ€™s contribution to selling the Mt Meru brand.
Human resource manager Lawrence Mulengeshi was not left out of the carsâ€™ bonanza for his loyalty to the company.
Speaking earlier, Mr Shah said despite the Kwacha not being stable, low commodity prices on the international market and the uncertain political situation ahead of the general elections, Mt Meru has continued to sustain its market share.
Mr Shah said the oil marketing company has continued dominating, selling 120 million litres of fuel in 2016 while the milling firm has also been bullish, crushing 60,000 tonnes of oil seed annually and is currently the number one cooking oil producer.
â€œOne out of 10 vehicles in Zambia use Mt Meru fuel. We support 300,000 farmers [representing 1.5 million households],â€ Mr Shah said.
He said people should always come first because that is Mt Meruâ€™s philosophy.
Mr Shah implored the workers to continue towards achieving excellence.
And Mr Mittal expressed gratitude that the Zambia group was one of the fast growing entities in Africa.
And speaking 24 hours later when launching Mt Meru Group Zambiaâ€™s the real estate development company, Meru Developers, Minister of Finance Felix Mutati says Government is happy with the support from the private sector despite the challenges the country is facing.
Mr Mutati says Government is also happy that Mount Meru Group, which has grown to a US$200 million enterprise considers Zambia one of its topmost investment destinations.
â€œWhat is more gratifying is that despite the economic challenges Zambia is facing, Mount Meru has continued to invest in Zambia. These investments clearly demonstrate the companyâ€™s long term vision in our country,â€ he said.
In a speech read for him by Ministry of Finance permanent secretary, Ronald Simwinga, Mr Mutati said these investments clearly demonstrate the companyâ€™s long term vision in Zambia.
He said Mt Meru which first invested in Zambia in 2008, now employs over 1,000 people within its operations.
â€œThis is particularly important to Government as job creation is a priority. These kind of investments make us proud as they showcase Zambia as a competitive and important investment in Sub-Saharan Africa,â€ Mr Mutati said.
He said the processing facilities at Mt Meru have contributed significantly to the growth of the agricultural sector, especially crops such as soya beans and sunflower.
â€œThis has contributed to crop diversification by providing a steady and growing market for these crops. This is also in line with Governmentâ€™s objective of growing the manufacturing sector,â€ Mr Mutati said.
Mt Meru will invest US$30 million in the project.
Mr Mutati said Meru Developers will undertake among others, construction of corporate parks, shopping malls and housing units.
He said the companyâ€™s first project will be the construction of a corporate park and that 400 to 500 jobs will be created during the construction phase.
And Mr Mutati has implored the private sector to consider investing in rural and peri-urban areas where vast opportunities are available and poverty levels are more pronounced.
BENEDICT TEMBO, Lusaka