Meatco executives jump ship

27 July 2018 Author   Kaula Nhongo

Troubled meat processing and marketing company, Meatco, has been rocked by the resignation of six of its top executives in a space of six months, a move which has robbed it of over 50 years of collective experience.

Troubled meat processing and marketing company, Meatco, has been rocked by the resignation of six of its top executives in a space of six months, a move which has robbed it of over 50 years of collective experience.
Five of the executives have left or will leave soon after opting to go on voluntary early retirement while the sixth resigned after a dispute with the current board.
The company recently offered voluntary early retirement for all employees who are 55 years old and above and an option for voluntary retrenchment with a severance package of two week’s pay for each completed year of service.
The Windhoek Observer understands that former Chief Financial Officer, Ingo Schneider, resigned and left the company in April while the Executive for Stakeholder Relations and Corporate Affairs, Vehaka Tjimune, left in June.
Executive Quality Assurance, Rosa Katjivena, will only serve until end of July while Executive Marketing and Sales, Cyprianus Khaised, will serve his notice period until end of September.
Acting Chief Financial Officer and Group Management Accountant, Ilana Brown, who replaced Schneider, is also serving her notice period.
The five join former Chief Executive Officer, Vekuii Rukoro, who resigned in December 2017 after a public fall out with the current board.
In December 2016, former agriculture minister, John Mutorwa, announced the appointment of a temporary board to serve for six months, prompting the parastatal's then CEO to challenge the appointment in court.
The temporary board members, who took up their seats on 4 January 2017, were originally set to serve for only six months, but were later appointed for a full three-year term by Cabinet.
Sources close to Meatco who refused to be named, said the executives are leaving because of the current financial situation in the company partly caused by dwindling cattle numbers.
Meatco recently retrenched all its temporary employees due to cash flow problems and the limited number of cattle available for slaughter.
Manager for Corporate Affairs, Rosa Tobias, said people should not be alarmed by the executives’ exit as voluntary retrenchments offered by the company included everyone.
 “As per the company’s strategic move on 30 May 2018, Meatco opened up the voluntary retrenchment process.  Over the years, Meatco has undergone operational challenges, due to decreased number of cattle; therefore there was a need to align the company.  
“As part of the mitigation action in aligning the company to the current cattle numbers, voluntary early retirement and voluntary retrenchment were offered to employees to reduce the head count.  This was offered across the board from top to bottom. As a result, some of the individuals across the board had volunteered to take the offer,” Tobias said.
She, however, acknowledged that the exit of the executives would leave a dent in the company, adding that Meatco had unsuccessfully tried to negotiate with some of the members.
“Meatco Management reserves the right to decline application for voluntary retrenchment if the applicant/employees possess critical/scarce skills/competency needed by the cooperation. In this specific case of the EXCO members, mitigations were undertaken by the Acting CEO’s office and this was not successful as individuals had to be given the opportunity to exercise their right of which they did,” Tobias said.
Board Chairperson, Martha Namundjebo-Tilahun, refused comment on whether the board was concerned about executives leaving.
The departure leaves Meatco with only three executives - the Acting Chief Executive Officer and Operational Executive, Jannie Breytenbach, Executive for Livestock Procurement, Heiner Bohme, and the Human Resources (HR) Executive, Stanley Hoveka-Mbura, who was recently demoted to Senior Manager HR. 
The Windhoek Observer recently carried a series of articles on Meatco which paint a dim picture.
Last month, the company sent out a notice to producers, announcing the closure of its regional service offices.
“Meatco has re-evaluated its business model and operating structure due to the constant decline in cattle numbers and financial constraints currently faced by the company,” the company said in the notice, adding that it had centralised all its operations to the Head Office and the Windhoek factory in Windhoek.
One of the executives, who refused to be named out of fear that he will be victimized, said the reason he and others had resigned was because they could not work under the current board.
“We are not going to forget our principles just to earn a good salary. We are not at war with Meatco, it has been a good company, but we have just failed to work with the board,” the source claimed.
Sources said that despite the outcry from both producers and employees, the relevant people who are supposed to act have not taken any action, leaving the company to rot.
“Everyone who is supposed to take decisions knows, but nobody is doing anything. The resignations are a protest of what the board is doing. If the board cannot be removed, we shall remove ourselves,” one source said. 
Meatco members also blame the company’s deteriorating financial position on the board.
Members recently expressed their grievances at the company’s annual general meeting where they called for the current board to be dissolved.
They expressed extreme disappointment with what they called the non-transparent manner in which the board interacted with them and the ineffective manner in which members' interests were generally served.
They also expressed disappointment with the deterioration of Meatco's business efficiency and competiveness under the control of the current board, to the extent that its existence is in danger.
They have since requested the board to provide them with a strategy and practical steps to restore trust in them while also requesting the board to come up with a turnaround strategy in order to make the business internationally competitive.
According to the members, past board actions have cast doubt on the efficiency and effectiveness of its corporate governance, procedures and processes.
The Windhoek Observer recently reported that Meatco board was weighing down the company after background checks carried out by Barclays Bank UK showed that it had raised red flags on Chairperson Namundjebo-Tilahun, Vice Chairperson Ronald Kubas as well as co-opted board member, Edwin Beukes.
The background checks were part of an exercise to determine whether the company was eligible to open a bank account with the UK based lender.
Figures released at the AGM show that the Meatco Group recorded revenue of N$1.4 billion during 2017 with a net loss of N$51.2 million.
Revenue decreased by 15.9 percent year-on-year, mainly due to the lower number of cattle slaughtered (10.45 percent) and the strengthening of the Namibia dollar against major foreign currencies.
Meatco, however, paid N$899.8 million to producers, which was 20 percent more than the previous year's figure of N$750 million.
The board has continued in its appointed duties despite several objections that it was illegally constituted.

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