By Patience Nyangove
SUSPENDED Meatco Chief Executive Officer, Advocate Vekuii Rukoro, who is also the Ovaherero Paramount Chief, says that the national meat producer will end up slaughtering dogs, if it pushes ahead with its plan to get rid of him.
In an exclusive interview this week, Rukoro threatened that Herero farmers will stop selling their cattle to Meatco, in retaliation over the ill-treatment of their leader.
“The pity of all this is that there is going to be very serious consequences. Unless they reverse their decision, these consequences will not only be for Meatco, but the entire meat industry.
“You see, I happen to be the paramount chief of the OvaHerero people, and unfortunately my people at this point feel that this political harassment is not only directed at me as a person, but that is a political agenda,” Rukoro said.
“As you know the OvaHerero are cattle people and 52 percent of the cattle marketed by Namibia, leave this country on the hoof to South Africa, as weaners. These weaners are marketed by farmers in communal areas.”
Rukoro, who was sent home on administrative leave last week, amid an investigation into alleged irregularities at the parastatal, said his suspension was carried out by an illegal Meatco board, chaired by Martha Namundjebo-Tilahun, which is “dancing to the tune” of Agriculture, Water and Forestry Minister, John Mutorwa.
Rukoro also vowed that he will contest the legality of his suspension and demand that the Meatco board members personally pay for what they did to him.
Rukoro said that in terms of Meatco slaughter cattle, 25 percent of the commercial market share also originates from communal farmers, who are mostly Ovaherero.
“I don’t know whether you have seen messages on social media, from angry Ovaherero, saying that Meatco will end up slaughtering dogs, for what it has done to their paramount chief.
“We are going to implement alternative marketing channels for our cattle. It’s not an empty threat my friend,and they have the political will and the capacity to implement that, even before the end of this year.
“Mark my words, if the government wants to risk this because of a ‘cowboy board’, and bring this industry to its knees, they shouldn’t say they haven’t been forewarned,”Rukoro threatened.
He disclosed that he will not take his suspension lying down.
“I will surely contest it; there is no question about it. So how will I contest it? It’s just a question of legal tactics and strategy, but there is no question that I will contest it, and I will make sure that it’s not Meatco that must pay, but individual directors, in their personal capacities,” he said.
Rukoro said it is high time that people who violate Namibian laws, “deliberately and recklessly” be made to pay “and feel that pain in their own individual personal pockets”.
He said this is what will happen, unless his suspension is reversed.
Rukoro also tore into Mutorwa, who he accused of allegedly embarking on a political witch-hunt, to remove him from Meatco.
“They definitely do not want me there. My contract is running until the end of March next year, so it’s not that my contract is up. It’s just that this board is appointed by Mr Mutorwa, and from the word go, he never wanted me at that place, and he only knows why, I don’t know.”
Rukoro said that key members of the board are beholden to Mutorwa and that some of them are openly conflicted.
He added that he was also being punished by Mutorwa, because of the closure of the Oshakati and Katima abattoirs last year. He defended the closures, saying the operational costs of the two abattoirs were financially crippling Meatco, after a N$43 million loss was incurred during the 2014/2015 financial year.
Rukoro also told Confidente that it was not his decision to cease operations at the two abattoirs, but that this had been decided by the board.
Rukoro said that the Ernst and Young report the Meatco board used as the basis for his suspension, contains nothing that warranted such an action.
“So all I am saying is there are good reasons that have got nothing to do with the Ernst and Young report or Annanias Katjomuise (a Meatco agent who allegedly caused losses of just shy of N$300 000).
“It’s part of a political witch-hunt… and people who have seen the Ernst and Young report are telling me there is nothing that can warrant my suspension. The final report of 28 pages, I understand, only mentions my name once and it only states that,‘we understand the CEO Advocate Rukoro has recommended Mr Katjomuise’s appointment as a livestock agent for period’.
“There is no finding or recommendation that I should be investigated, or that I should be held accountable or liable for anything that they have been investigating for the past two years.
“They are all using this as a smokescreen, for ulterior purposes,” Rukoro said.
When asked whether he had tried to seek audience with Mutorwa, before or after his suspension, Rukoro said “no”.
He also said that Public Enterprises Minister, Leon Jooste, was reportedly not consulted by Mutorwa and the board, when he was suspended.
“Mutorwa is the one who is trying to get rid of me, through the board, and now has managed to do so. Jooste was ignored in this process. The last time they went through Jooste, and he blocked it (my suspension), and this time they ignored him.
“As it was quoted in the media, Jooste doesn’t know anything, so clearly they just went through their own boss, and it’s clear that Jooste is just being bypassed, and the whole question of good corporate governance in parastatals has become a complete shambles.”
Rukoro also accused Mutorwa of appointing the current Meatco board illegally, without consulting the parastatal’s producers, who at an AGM last year had come up with a list of names the minister was supposed to draw the board from.
Rukoro added that a majority of Meatco producers are afraid to speak out,because they will end up being politically intimidated and victimised.
“It’s not that they are not angry, but they are afraid of the political establishment, and that’s why we are sitting with the same illegal board. We have an illegal board, taking illegal decisions.
“Go and read the Meatco Act. Itclearly says that before you even remove a Meatco employee, they must be given the right to be heard. I was not given the right to be heard, I was simply informed that I have been put on administrative leave, which is a concept that doesn’t even exist in Meatco. We don’t know about it;it’s not in our policies, not in our code, not even in our Namibian law.
“Article 18 of the Namibian Constitution is specific and the Namibian courts on numerous occasions have said that before you suspend an employee, you call and tell him the reasons and what they have to say.
“When I challenged the board about this, they told me that I don’t have such a right,and they can suspend me without the right to be heard. And this happening in a free Namibia.”
When contacted for comment on Wednesday, Mutorwa said he was not involved in the appointment of Meatco CEOs.
“No, I don’t appoint Meatco CEOs, and I don’t use the board. No comment,” the minister said.
Namundjebo-Tilahun said that the board is not compromised and is only trying to do its job.
“We do our work based purely on work, with no personal agenda. We have nothing personal against Rukoro, and we have suspended him, in order to carry out our investigations,” she said.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015