4 July 2012

Namibia: O&L-Kempinski Marriage On the Rocks?

FOLLOWING the termination of the contracts of all six Kempinski managers at Ohlthaver & List's Mokuti and Midgard lodges last week, questions are being asked about the future of the multimillion-dollar partnership.

Namibia's current economic climate is being blamed for the move.

Kempinski Hoteliers won the contract to manage Mokuti Lodge on behalf of O&L in 2008 and Midgard Country Estate in 2011.

Last week, Sven Thieme, O&L group executive chairman, reportedly gave the six foreigners the boot, citing "the current economic climate within Namibia" as the reason behind the "restructuring of the management team".

Documents in possession of The Namibian show that the managers were instructed to "hand over before 17h00 on June 29 all keys, information, memorandums, documents, correspondence and any other property of whatever nature of the company".

The former managers are fuming because in terms of their job contracts, they are entitled to three months' salary upon termination of the contract.

The memorandum of termination of employment served on them last week makes provision for only one month's notice pay.

Roux-Che Locke, O&L spokesperson, yesterday sidestepped a question about whether or not the business giant was in financial trouble.

The Namibian also wanted to know to what extent the restructuring would affect other O&L employees. Locke said: "With any operation, we review the results from time to time, and where appropriate, actions are taken to improve the profitability of the operation."

Asked about the dismissal of the six managers, Locke said: "Employee matters are confidential by nature, and therefore cannot be discussed."

On the contradictions between the employment contracts and the termination agreements about severance pay, Locke equally maintained that "this matter is confidential and as such, it will not be discussed in public".

According to Locke, "the partnership between O&L and Kempinski remains unchanged. However, certain changes in management have occurred in order to streamline future strategic initiatives."

Responding to a question on whether or not the O&L-Kempinski marriage was in murky waters, she did not say what such future strategic initiatives entail.

The spokesperson vehemently denied an allegation of racism against Thieme. It was claimed that Thieme told the former Mokuti general manager, Warren Gaudby, that he must remove his "black whores" from the lodge.

"The allegation is simply unfounded and devoid of all truth. We reject this allegation in the strongest terms and with the contempt it deserves," Locke responded.

Gaudby apparently lived with his black fiancée on the lodge.

Asked about the reasons behind the recent dismissal of Namibia Breweries - an O&L subsidiary - employee, Caroline Guriras, Locke said: "This is an internal and confidential matter, and as such we do not discuss employee matters in public."

On Friday, a local weekly reported that the breweries fired Guriras over the relationship she has with advertising agency DV8 Saatchi & Saatchi.

Namibia Breweries suspended Guriras in January this year on charges of passing on confidential information to service providers, misconduct and conflict of interest, the Windhoek Observer reported.

According to the weekly, the breweries raised the charge of conflict of interest and suspended Guriras after the company started suspecting that she had leaked key information to DV8, an NBL service provider.

In fact, reliable sources revealed, Namibia Breweries came to know about Guriras and DV8's association through a complaint delivered through a suggestion box at Deloitte & Touche, an auditing firm that handles complaints regarding the breweries.

NBL suspected Guriras gave DV8 tips on how to present its bidding documents in order to succeed. It further accused her of giving DV8 performance bonuses during the time she was the manager of the Tafel Lager account.

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