6 February 2013

Namibia: Etale Closing Factory for 'Maintenance'

Etale Fishing Employees company staging a peaceful demonstration demanding answers from management regarding their salary cut backs.

ETALE fishing company, which earlier this year sent the bulk of its seasonal and permanent workers home without any explanation, is to close its fish factory for maintenance and upgrading, threatening the remaining jobs, The Namibian is reliably informed.

The company's board of directors decided at a meeting on Monday to "rehabilitate the factory" amid widespread speculation that it is in financial dire straits.

Etale has been in the news since last year for issues ranging from infighting among shareholders to not paying its levies to the government and reducing its workforce.

The company employs around 700 workers and operates a fishing factory and also owns fishing boats.

A source close to the board said it was decided to close the factory and renovate it, a process that will take more than five months. According to the source, some of the components of the factory are old and need repair. Etale is also planning to send its boats for repair during the factory closure.

Gerry Munyama, executive superintendent of human resources at Etale Fishing, yesterday declined to provide details of the decisions of the board meeting.

But a source close to the board said: "We are looking at closing the factory and re-starting. That will take about four to five months or more."

The managing director and the chairperson of Etale Fishing were set to meet the management yesterday or early today to inform them about the board meeting's decisions.

According to the source the management will then engage trade union and the workers on the board resolutions.

Karl //Gowaseb, the managing director of one of the shareholding companies in Etale, confirmed that the factory will be closed.

The Namibia Seamen and Allied Workers Union (Nasawu) recently said they were worried about the fate of the company's 700 workers who were in the dark about their future at Etale and their pensions.

Nasawu president Paulus Hango yesterday said that fishing quota holders should be held accountable for any job losses.

"They can't just close the factory and expect people to go like that, while they received the quota to employ people. Or else, they should return the quota to the ministry," Hango said.

The unions were recently told by the company's management that the company was facing financial problems.

Negative reports about Etale started last year when its then managing director and majority shareholder Sylvanus 'Bobboh' Kathindi was investigated by other shareholders over the handling of the company's affairs.

Kathindi later jumped ship and sold his interest in the company. But the departure of Kathindi seemed not to have ended Etale's problems.

This week a minority shareholder company in Etale issued a two-page statement in which it distanced itself from the problems at the company. It accused the company's management of ineffectiveness and managing resources ineffectively.

The statement signed by Ehanga Holding's //Gowaseb said they do not have a say in the running of the company since they are just minority shareholders .

Another source close to the board admitted that Etale has experienced financial problems lately.

Etale is a consortium of black empowerment companies Etale Trust, Ehanga, Ompagona and Ozohi.

Etale Trust, owned by the Kefuta Group, is the majority shareholder with a 55 percent stake, while Ehanga, Ompagona and Ozohi own the remaining 45 percent.

Kefuta Group, which is owned by Sadike Nepela, bought the shares from Etale Endowment Trust, which was owned by Kathindi, the former MD of Etale.

Kathindi was forced out of his position last year amid accusations of irregularities, which have allegedly cost the company millions of dollars.

An internal investigation, whose findings were not made public, allegedly found that Kathindi benefited personally and "inappropriately" through a deal between Etale Fishing Company and Namsov.

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