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ACCOUNTANT Joan Masemeng e-mailed me a month ago about a Sasko Bakery staff bus which had ploughed into the wall of her family home in Soweto’s Mapetla Extension in the early hours of May 7, after the driver lost control of the vehicle.
The house, which originally belonged to Masemeng’s parents, is currently inhabited by her unemployed sister and her children.
So Masemeng contacted Sasko Bakery and was asked to source three repair quotes, which she did.
“They then told me they had to be formal quotes, so again, we complied,” she said. That quote was about R10 000.
“Since then – two months – there has been no communication from Sasko,” Masemeng wrote. “I have called on several occasions, and been sent from pillar to post.”
Having finally made contact with the company’s distribution manager, Masemeng and her sister went to see him in early June. He told them that because it could be a while before the wall was repaired, they should go ahead and get it repaired themselves, and Sasko would reimburse them.
“We asked for something in writing, on a letterhead, to confirm this commitment, but that never came, and instead we got an e-mail on July 6 saying simply: ‘Please carry on with the fixing of your wall, and please use this e-mail as a confirmation.’”
Unhappy with this, Masemeng wrote to Consumer Watch.
“My sister’s safety is jeopardised and she has children. She cannot afford to incur those costs. Sasko must fix our wall. Please help.”
I took up the case with Sasko – a division of Premier Foods – and on July 19 received an e-mail from Lulu Khumalo, corporate affairs and sustainability executive for Pioneer Foods.
Despite the fact that a third party “was deemed responsible for the accident”, she wrote, and despite the fact that the company’s insurer would not entertain a claim, Sasko’s Aeroton Bakery had undertaken to pay for the repair “as previously indicated”.
She said the bakery would consult the family “to agree on the best way forward”.
When Masemeng had not heard from Sasko 10 days later, I went back to the company and then received a letter dated July 31 from Johan Niemand, manager of Sasko Aeroton, confirming that Sasko would pay for the repair of the wall, that the company was in the process of sourcing quotes and that work would begin “within the next two weeks”.
And last week Niemand got back to me to say that a contractor would begin work on repairing the wall immediately.
So finally, three months after that bus destroyed a section of the family’s wall, it’s being rebuilt, and their security restored.
The only unwanted intrusion they’ve had to endure since their security was breached is goats entering the yard and eating their spinach.
Whatever the cause of that accident, and whatever the insurance implications, the fact is the family’s peace and security were shattered in the middle of the night when that bus smashed into their boundary wall, through no fault of theirs.
So it’s only fitting that the company that owns the bus does the right thing and makes good. Simple as that. In this case, better late than never.