Lichaba opened a branch of his popular Orlando West, Soweto, eatery, Kwa Lichaba Restaurant, at Sebokeng in the Vaal area early last month.
While the venue is open for business, several contractors, including plumbers and builders, who were hired to renovate the rented venue are still waiting to be paid for their work. Most of them were hired by Lichaba in March.
Electrician Bully Lekgoba said he was owed about R45000 by Lichaba.
“We agreed on R45000 but he then complained that it was too much. I told him I was not going to change my rate. I wired the entire building. Then when work on the outside lights was about to be concluded, I asked him for a deposit so I could pay the people who were helping me with the work. Then came delay after delay,” Lekgoba said.
When Lekgoba and his team refused to finish the work because of non-payment, Lichaba apparently hired a new crew.
“Two weeks ago he sent me a message that he was going to pay me. He also told me to stay away from the site and he would wire the money to my account,” Lekgoba said.
Lichaba confirmed on Wednesday that he had not paid the contractors.
“As business people, sometimes there are delays. and it has been less than a month. I spoke to them and told them I will sort it out,” he said.
He said the opening of the new Kwa Lichaba at the Vaal venue wasn’t as successful as he'd hoped it would be, and that was why he had not yet settled his debts.
“I promise that I will pay them; I will never let people do work and not pay them what is due to them. It’s normal to have delays in business, and in most cases in our daily lives. So I will pay them what is owed to them, definitely.”
Another source said that in most instances, Lichaba was able to talk down the desperate contractors’ rates to as low as R13000. but he was still struggling to pay them.
“People are struggling to feed their families and he is living in the lap of luxury; he needs to pay these people,” he said.
Building contractor Mkhulu Mazibuko said Lichaba owed him R11000.
Mazibuko said he employed seven people to help him with construction and that Lichaba had promised to pay him weekly. “What is depressing is that you hire workers to work on site and they get tired of reasons for non-payment and get angry,” Mazibuko said.
He added he wouldn’t have had a problem if Lichaba had told them upfront he had financial problems. “If he had come and had a conversation with us, we wouldn’t have a problem. The issue of his silence is making people angry; if the workers decide to go to the venue there will be trouble,” he said.
A source said that in addition to Lekgoba and Mazibuko, Lichaba owed money to a plumber and a painter.
Mthembu Mvelase, the owner of the property, said he was worried because the contractors were threatening to force him to shut down the venue. He said the aggrieved workers had threatened to raze it to the ground if he didn't shut it down.