…Catering company bemoans no pay for service
…Family says government approved catering quote
Ha-Rona catering company which was providing cookery services during the funeral of the internationally acclaimed Afro-Jazz music legend, Tšepo Tshola, on July 30 says a year later, the government has failed to either pay them or communicate.
The 68-year-old legend’s funeral was held at Thaba-Bosiu Heroes Acre after the government agreed to offer him an official funeral.
Though the funeral went on smoothly, the owner of Ha-Rona catering company, Tlhoho Moshoeshoe Litjobo told this paper in an interview that the government has sent her from pillar to post when demanding payment for the services she provided at the funeral.
Litjobo said the Tshola family had chosen her to cater at the funeral as is done whenever there are state funerals.
She indicated that she did her job as expected, but the Ministry of Home Affairs has been playing hide and seek when having to pay her for the services rendered.
“When one is given a state funeral, the family is allowed to choose a catering company they want, and the Tshola family chose me to offer my services.
“This was not the first time I was chosen to cater at such a funeral and I have always been paid, but this case has been different and frustrating,” Litjobo said.
She said she has lost count of the number of times she went to the ministry of home affairs offices to find clarification on why she was not getting paid but all her efforts were in vain.
Litjobo said a Makutloano Lekoane from the department of celebrations at the ministry told her that her paperwork always comes back unapproved from the Principal Secretary (PS) Tumelo Raboletsi’s office.
When contacted for clarity by this paper, Lekoane declined speaking with this reporter saying she is not authorised to speak with the media and referred the publication to the PS.
Litjobo said when she went to the PS’s office to inquire about her payment, she was made to wait for hours until she left and went home without seeing Raboletsi.
“I have lost count of the number of times I tried to find clarifications on why my company is not being paid for the services. The most frustrating thing is that the current PS knows very well that my company offered the catering services. I was with him on the eve of the funeral when I was doing final touches,” she said.
She added: “Even though I did not want to involve my husband (Thuso Litjobo) in this, I asked him to call the PS to find out what was wrong because I believed they were colleagues.”
“The PS indicated that the ministry officers were not telling the truth when they said he is refusing to approve my payment,” Litjobo said adding that even after her husband called the PS, she still did not get paid.
She further told this publication that she was told that the PS was questioning how Ha-Rona catering company got the catering job for that funeral.
She said this surprised her because it was the family of Tshola that chose her to cater at the funeral, saying that was how it had been done in the past referring to the funeral of the late Ralechate ‘Mokose which she also catered for and was paid on time.
Speaking to this publication, Raboletsi refused any knowledge of the musician’s funeral having had a catering company offering any services citing the funeral was held during the hard lockdown with strict restrictions.
“Ntate Tshola’s funeral came at a time when Covid-19 regulations were tight and catering at funerals was prohibited. There is no way any catering company could have been engaged. I remember people leaving after the funeral because there was no food,” the PS said.
Raboletsi further emphasised that all companies that have ever provided catering services at the state funerals in the past have been paid.
“I do not know that catering company. If such a case exists, then maybe department procurement might know about it but I don’t. I don’t remember receiving any correspondence from this catering company regarding matters of payment. All companies which have catered at state funerals in the past have been paid.
Litjobo when responding to the PS’s lack of knowledge of her company charged that the PS was a witness to her services.
“My question is, when the PS saw me working at the funeral why didn’t he say something? Who did he think did the catering at the funeral if he now claims he does not understand how I got that job?”
She said she even went to as far as asking for intervention from the Tshola Family which tried to help, but nothing came out of that.
She said she escalated the matter by involving her lawyer who also wrote to the PS, but there has not been any response until this day.
This paper contacted the Tshola Family to give clarity on Litjobo’s engagement, and Keitumetse Tshola confirmed of that the family indeed chose Ha-Rona to cater at the funeral.
“We are deeply grateful to Ha-Rona catering company and the government for the assistance we received towards my father’s funeral.”
She explained that they engaged Ha-Rona catering company after it was suggested to them by mme Makutloano in the celebrations department.
Tshola said the assistance came at an 11th hour when the family was almost done with the funeral preparations, saying at the time, the only thing they thought they would use the money for was for food.
She said she met with Lekoane who suggested to her three catering companies inclusive of Ha-Rona catering.
“After comparing prices of these three companies, I decided to settle with Ha-Rona catering and I personally called her to ask that she caters at the funeral.
Tshola said the company made its quotation, but because of Covid-19 and its regulations at the time, the ministry suggested she reduces the number of people on the quotation which she did.
“The quotation was approved.”
“The money was never send to the family’s account and we had thought that it would be used to pay her directly for her services after the funeral. I just do not know what the problem is at the moment,” Tshola said.