Meat processing and marketing company, Meatco, and the ministries of agriculture and public enterprises have been dragged to court by a group of disgruntled farmers,
who are challenging the appointment of the Martha Namundjebo-Tilahun-led board.
The five farmers - Amon Ngavetene, Alia Fasa kandjii, Peter Kazongominja, Gottfriedt Tsuseb and Tjakazapi Janson Mbunguha - have approached the High Court seeking an order to set aside the appointment of the six-member board consisting of Namundjebo-Tilahun (chairman), Ronald Kubas, Sophia Kasheeta, Ismael Ngangane, Fanie Oosthuizen and Mushokobanji Mwilima, which had their term extended by agriculture minister, John Mutorwa, until 2020.
According to the farmers, Mutorwa in his capacity as the agriculture minister contravened the provisions of the Meatco Act, Public Enterprises Governance Act, No 2 of 2006 and Article 18 of the Namibian Constitution, when he reappointed the Meatco board in February 2017.
The farmers are also arguing that the agriculture minister ignored their statutory role as members of Meatco when it came to the nomination of Meatco board members, while the Meatco board had ignored the farmers’ request for a motion to the effect that the board should resign as it was illegally appointed.
“The board further communicated through a media release that the members did not have power to decide whether the appointment of directors was valid in law as this would be a matter for the courts to determine. This again misses the point,” the farmers said in their application.
Mutorwa, in his affidavit submitted through government attorneys, asked the court to dismiss the farmer’s challenge with costs, questioning why it had taken the farmers over two months to lodge their legal challenge.
“The relief sought by the applicants, if granted, will have the effect that the applicant is left without a board,” he argued in court papers.
The strained relationship between the Meatco members and the company board comes as it survived being booted out at a Special Members meeting in August last year, after the producers did not nominate a single member from the existing board.
The development saw Namundjebo-Tilahun declaring the 12 August meeting null and void, accusing company executives of defying a board resolution by proceeding with the elective Special Members Meeting, despite the board having resolved not to proceed.
At its 31st annual general meeting held in June 2017, police had to be called in to restore order after a group of farmers disrupted proceedings questioning the legality of the board.
At the meeting, farmers and producers came to a temporary halt after those in attendance failed to agree on whether the legality of the board should be discussed at the AGM or be scheduled for a separate meeting.
The legal challenge facing Meatco also comes as the company is battling to prove its case against its suspended Chief Executive Officer, Vekuii Rukoro, with the Windhoek Observer last week reporting that the company board was forced to drop two of the four charges it had leveled against him.
Rukoro was suspended in May on allegations of misconduct.
The board later dropped a charge that Rukoro gave an unnamed Cabinet minister preferential treatment when it came to the purchasing and slaughtering of his cattle in the Kavango region.
In addition, Rukoro was accused of having influenced the decision to advance a N$200,000 payment to the minister for his cattle, exposing the company to financial risks.
The second charge dropped pertained to alleged derogatory, offensive and disrespectful remarks he made against certain and collective members of the Meatco board and the Government.
Ruling on the court challenge is expected next year.