Thousands of Cadbury chocolates have been sold to the public despite being past their best.
The chocolate, some of it months beyond its best-before date, was sold at a major KwaZulu-Natal South Coast wholesaler, which supplies spaza shops and trading stores, including in rural Eastern Cape areas.
And tens of thousands of rands worth of short-dated chocolate was dispatched to wholesaler clients hidden among newer stock.
These claims were made in the labour court in Durban last week.
It was alleged that ambitious sales targets led to massive overstocking in wholesalers.
Most resulted in multimillion-rand returns across KwaZulu-Natal of popular Cadbury brands, including Dairy Milk slabs and Lunch Bars.
A food health expert emphasised there was no risk in eating chocolate past its best-by date.
But a legal expert questioned the ethics of selling such products without clearly informing consumers.
The matter came to light when a sacked sales representative, Hans van Tonder, took his former employer, Diplomat Distributors, to court, claiming he had been victimised and that his dismissal was “automatically unfair”.
Mondelez SA, owners of Cadbury, contracts Diplomat, a logistics company, to distribute its products to wholesalers.
Diplomat fired Van Tonder in April 2016 for gross dereliction of duty after a company hearing found an instance where he failed to timeously report that chocolate at a Port Shepstone client was nearing its best-by date.
But Van Tonder produced emails that show Diplomat had been told by the client that it had been receiving stock with “mixed expiry dates”, which he argued was outside his control.
“It is a major concern as the inner stock on the pallet is short-dated,” wrote a buyer for the wholesaler, who asked what would be done to eradicate the problem.
Van Tonder, who had represented Cadbury products for 16 years, produced a dossier in court, including national stock return figures, emails and other documents which allegedly pointed to widespread problems with overstocking and short-dated stock.
Van Tonder was fired over a R21 835 loss to Diplomat at the Port Shepstone wholesaler.
This was the value of chocolate that had to be removed from the wholesaler in early 2016 after it had past its best-by dates, as well as money spent discounting and promoting the chocolate in a late bid to sell it.
A witness for Van Tonder told the court the R21 835 was “like chalk and cheese” compared with returns of hundreds of thousands of rands of Cadbury chocolate from many other wholesalers across the country.
Shadrach Chinniah, who resigned as a Diplomat rep in October 2016, said: “I thought it was absolutely ludicrous he was dismissed for R21 000 and my store had [old stock worth] R310 000 … why didn’t they dismiss me?”
He told the court a Diplomat manager “cleared” the R310 000 in minibars from a major Durban wholesaler “after it expired”.
The court heard the minibars failed in the marketplace nationally and the line was discontinued.
Chinniah alleged there were:
. Cover-ups by management;
. A lack of support for markdowns to move short-dated stock; and that
. Short-dated stock was hidden among newer stock before delivery, making it hard for merchandisers and reps to keep tabs on best-by dates.
Placed before the court were photographs that were said to show pallet loads of chocolates, all of which were beyond their best-by dates, “being sold on special” at the same Port Shepstone wholesaler, months after Van Tonder’s dismissal.
The pictures, apparently taken in June, show marked-down PS chocolates that had expired on May 25 2016 and Lunch Bars that had expired on April 25 2016.
However, these claims were not examined.
Early on the second day of the hearing, Bongani Khanyile, attorney for Diplomat, applied for the matter to be sent to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).
He argued Van Tonder was seeking relief for an “automatically unfair” dismissal but had not made a case for this.
Judge Benita Whitcher agreed it was an “ordinary unfair dismissal case” rather than one that involved arbitrary discrimination and ruled her court would not sit on the matter.
An emotional Van Tonder stormed out of the courtroom.
“Three years of this,” he shouted. “They have been lying. I am going to go outside and break down.”
Whitcher later gave a written order directing the CCMA to expedite the matter.
No order was made for costs.
Yinon Ben Anat, chief executive of Diplomat SA said: “Diplomat’s policy is clear in that we do not purchase or sell expired stock [beyond its best-by date].”
He did not comment on claims of overstocking and declined to give details on Diplomat’s contractual relationship with Mondalez.
City Press sent Mondalez a list of questions on overstocking and its policy on the sale of best-by goods. The company declined to comment, saying the matter was before the courts.
“Mondelez SA abides by local legislation and we are focused on bringing the highest-quality products to our consumers,” it said.
Vice President of Nigeria Prof Yemi Osinbajo said the Buhari administration will expand the N-Power scheme to accommodate one million beneficiaries in the next phase.
This followed the successes recorded so far and the growing need for government’s direct intervention in job creation.
The Vice President spoke in response to a variety of questions from Nigerians across different professions and persuasions, at a town hall meeting in Abuja on Monday.
He said the N-Power programme would become the largest post-tertiary job scheme in Africa.
“The idea of N-Power is supposed to be government’s own programme of direct employment and training. At the moment, we have taken up to 500,000 and in the next phase we are looking at another 200,000 and closely followed by another 300,000.
“In all, we will be employing up to a million, and that will be the largest post-tertiary job programme in the entire Africa. The reason why we have done this is because of the employment problems that we have. We may not be able to engage everybody but at least government must give some direct provision of jobs.”
Prof. Osinbajo explained further that though government could not pay more than the N30,000 currently paid to beneficiaries and also fix all the unemployment issues, it is working on creating the enabling environment to ensure that beneficiaries as well as other unemployed Nigerians become useful to themselves.
“It is infrastructure that will create the opportunities to provide more jobs, especially through manufacturing and Industry.
“So, we are doing roads and rail, providing power; that is the way we can develop industry. We are energizing our markets at the moment, putting solar power in the markets. We have designated 300 markets, we have done Ariaria in the South East, Sabon Gari in Kano, Sura in Lagos, Isikan in Ondo, Gbagi in Oyo and we are expanding so that more people can work.”
On the need to engage more women in productive activities, Prof. Osinbajo said: “one of the ways the Buhari administration is engaging more women is through our GEEP loans.”
“56% of our GEEP loans go to the women. So there is a lot of preferential advantage that we give to women and this is because women are effective managers of resources; they pay back these loans when they are given.”
Speaking on the misconceptions about the borrowing arrangements of the Buhari administration, the Vice President said, the country, under President Buhari, was not in a terribly bad debt situation as insinuated in some quarters.
According to him, very frequently you find people creating fear about the issue of debt and saying that this government has borrowed more than previous governments.
“I want to give you the facts and figures on the debt issue. The dollar denominated debts of Nigeria – that is the debts of the Federal Government, the States and Local governments.
“In 2010, Nigeria’s debt was $35 billion; 2011, it was $41billion; in 2012, it was $48 billion, in 2013, it became $64 billion; 2014, it rose to $67 billion; 2015, it fell to $63 billion; 2016, $57 billion; 2017, $70 billion; 2018, it is $73 billion. So, the difference between 2015 and now is $10 billion.
“One of the things that I always want you to bear in mind is that when oil prices are at their highest, between 2010 and 2014 that was when we had the sharpest rise in debts.”
Continuing on the debt issue, Prof. Osinbajo said “the other thing that I want us to bear in mind is what is called debt to GDP. Our debt to GDP is one of the lowest among the countries that are frequently compared to us. Our debt to GDP is 20%. When you compare it to other countries, you will see that Ghana is about 68% whereas Ethiopia’s is 48%. In terms of the size of our economy and debt, we are doing okay”
He, however, agreed that “Nigeria may have an issue with debt to revenue”, noting that “we are not collecting enough revenue compared to what we want to spend.”
“Are we collecting enough taxes? If you look at the FIRS figures, it says 914 Nigerians pay the self-assessed tax of more than N10 million. Of the 914, 912 live in Lagos and the other 2 live in Ogun state, no other Nigerian outside of Lagos and Ogun pay the self-assessed tax of more than N10 million. So, we are simply not collecting enough revenue,” he added.
The Vice President said the Federal Government in collaboration with the States was working on harmonizing tax collections in order to address issues relating to multiple collection of taxes.
“This is a problem that we are dealing with all across Nigeria. It is one of the issues we are dealing with under the ease of doing business. We are addressing the sub-national. How we can harmonize taxes. The second phase of our ease of doing business is focused on the collection of multiple taxes; there is no reason why that should continue.”
On the ASUU strike, the Vice President said that government is engaging the leadership of the union, noting that “the next meeting is on Thursday, November 15, 2018”.
He, however, explained that “we are dealing with a population of about 200 million people who depend on a budget of about N8.6 trillion and of that amount, 70% of it goes to salaries and overheads, and it goes to less than 2 million people. It is impossible to answer to all of the monetary needs of people by the size of the federal budget”.
On healthcare financing, Prof. Osinbajo said the Buhari administration has done much even as it has earned 60 per cent less than the previous administrations.
“The first thing to bear in mind is that health care financing has suffered over the years even when we were earning the most money, we were underfunding healthcare.
“In 2015 when we came in, the healthcare budget was N22.7 billion and as of today we moved that to N86.5 billion and we are earning 60% less. Education was N23 billion in 2015, now it is N102 billion. The issue really is one of government commitment. For the first time, in the 2018 budget, we are setting aside 1% of our consolidated revenue to the health sector.”
Earlier, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola; Minister of Industry, Trade and investment, Dr. Okey Enelamah; Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi; and Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Audu Ogbeh, responded separately to issues relating to their various ministries.
The town hall meeting was organized by Act Now, a non-political group that works in promoting transparency and good governance as well as youth participation in governance.