Meat processing and marketing company, Meatco, has been forced into a N$2.35 million settlement with its former chief executive officer, Vekuii Rukoro, to stave off a possible defamation lawsuit.
The Windhoek Observer understands that Rukoro was in the process of suing the Martha Namundjebo Tilahun-led Meatco Board after it was forced to drop the remaining two charges it had levelled against the suspended chief executive officer, because of lack of evidence.
As part of the settlement deal, Rukoro, who was on suspension since May, agreed to sever ties with Meatco.
In addition to the N$2.35 million settlement, Rukoro will also receive his terminal benefits as per his contract with the company, which was due to expire at the end of February next year.
The settlement deal was reached last week Wednesday, sources familiar with the negotiations told the Windhoek Observer this week.
This comes after the company board was forced to drop the last two charges it had levelled against Rukoro, who initially faced four charges.
The latest charges to be dropped include an allegation that Rukoro was not fit to continue leading the meat processing company because of his obligations connected to his role as Paramount Chief of the Ovaherero people.
He was also charged for accepting an appointment to the MMI Holdings board without approval from the Meatco Board.
“All charges have been dropped and it was clear the board did not want him because of the substance of their allegations against the chief, which were meant to punish him and tarnish his image,” Rukoro’s lawyer, Jefta Tjitemisa, told the Windhoek Observer.
“During arbitration, the chief indicated that he would take legal action against Meatco and the board for defaming his character after the remaining charges were withdrawn, and that’s when the company made the settlement offer, which the chief accepted since he did not want to work for Meatco anymore.”
Tjitemisa said the outcome of the saga vindicated his client, adding that the Meatco Board was forced to pay millions just to settle personal scores.
“It’s up to the minister and the president to take the Meatco Board to task for costing the company millions in this difficult time,” Tjitemisa said.
Public Enterprises Minister, Leon Jooste, who previously intervened when the Meatco Board tried to suspend Rukoro, said his ministry was not consulted and thus did not approve the settlement agreement.
“No, we were not consulted and did not approve. In fact, I only received the correspondence this morning (Thursday). The amount is N$2.35 million, not N$3 million and this is in line with the Labour Act and approved by the Labour Commissioner,” he said.
Agriculture Minister, John Mutorwa, said he had been briefed about the agreement, but referred this newspaper to the Meatco Board.
“At the end of the day, the two lawyers discussed and a settlement was reached. It’s not the ministry’s budget, ask the board. Why should I comment on their behalf,” Mutorwa said.
“What I had been briefed about was that the two wanted to settle out of court and an agreement was reached, but I do not know the amounts.”
The settlement deal brings to an end a tumultuous relationship between Rukoro and the Namundjebo-Tilahun-led board, which received a new mandate from the agriculture minister to lead the meat processor until 2020.