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Ugandan engineering firm denies employing dead Chinese national

Mahathi Infra Uganda's lawyers led by Robert Kirunda

Mahathi Infra Uganda’s lawyer Robert Kirunda

Mahathi Infra Uganda Limited, a company that was sued for alleged negligence that resulted into the death of a Chinese national Ji Zong Wu, has said they have never employed him.

On October 27th 2021, the widow of the deceased Wang Yong Jie, through her lawyers led by Isaac Ssemakadde sued Mahathi Infra Uganda Limited, Mahathi Infra Services PVT Limited together with their Chairperson Yandapalli Ravi Shankar, following the death of her 51-year-old husband Zong on September 11th 2021.

The company deals in Engineering, Procurement and Construction business along the shores of Lake Victoria in Wakiso District in a project codenamed Mahathi Fuel Transport and Storage Depot. It is currently constructing a ship named MV Kabaka Mutebi II ship.

But on Wednesday, the widow’s lawyer Ssemakadde indicated that the deceased was an ordinary wood-cutting machine mechanic in Jilin Province, China until March 19th 2020 when he was trafficked into the country by the traffickers disguising him as a tourist visiting Uganda for one month.

After entering Uganda, the deceased was reportedly received by Mahathi Infra Uganda Limited, a company that is being accused of subjecting him to all manner of violations such as confiscation of his passport, overstaying his visa, forced and illegal employment, and purportedly hence death.

As such, the widow demanded to be paid more than one million dollars (3.5 billion shillings)in compensation for the loss of her husband.

However, addressing Journalists at a press conference at Sheraton Kampala Hotel on Thursday, the Mahathi Infra Uganda’s lawyers led by Robert Kirunda noted that they are sympathizing with the widow over the death of the husband but Zong has never been their employee.

Kirunda who was accompanied by lawyer Ezra Mugabi noted that the widow knows who the employer of Zong was and that it is important that any grievances that she has are addressed to the right people.

On the allegations of human trafficking and human sacrificing, Kirunda said that all these are strong defamatory statements and that they have firm instructions to rebut them and to put Ssemakadde on strict proof.

According to Kirunda, the deceased received every possible medical care in Uganda courtesy of the employer which matched what he could have received even if he was abroad.

But asked how he came to know that the employer was paying medication for the deceased yet he says his client was not the employer, Kirunda said that this was a legal territory the journalists were attempting to reach. He noted that they have learnt a court case has been filed against them and that they will be revealing everything in court.

Kirunda added however that as Mahathi Infra Uganda Limited, they work with various contractors and the employer of the deceased was a different company he didn’t mention, for fear of discussing the merits of the case in the media.

“I’m not trying to frustrate your quest for knowledge,” said Kirunda. “The challenge I have is that we work with different contractors and subcontractors, and without going in details Mahathi has a relationship with one of the various contractors that we work with. But that doesn’t mean that he was an employee of Mahathi Infra. There is a contractual relationship with the employer.”

He added: That doesn’t mean that we employed this individual. As you know ship building is quite an endeavor. You are talking about a ship that is longer than Nambole Stadium. So Mahathi in and itself has not in fact built the ship alone and his employer was one of those players.”

According to Mahathi Infra Uganda Limited, the widow has never been to police to demand inquires on how the husband died almost two months later yet for them they have since reached to the Uganda Police Force and commenced an inquest on Zong’s death.

Now Kirunda says it’s unfortunate, unjust and offensive for one to use the death of someone who had a medical condition which the widow knew about to attack people with a number of accusations.

To Kirunda, this is a kind of extortion, to allege that Mahathi refused to compensate the widow when the company didn’t employ him. Zong’s body is currently at Mulago National Referral Hospital as inquiries continue.

Earlier in the morning, the High Court Civil Division Registrar Jamson Karemani issued summons requiring the two companies and their Chairperson Yandapalli Ravi Shankar to put in a written defense within 15 days over the allegations against them or else court will go ahead and determine the case without their presence.

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