New Era (Windhoek)

Namibia: Rukoro Slams Govt's Shareholding in Meatco

Windhoek — The newly appointed chief executive officer of Meatco, Vekuii Rukoro, says Cabinet's decision to apportion government a 30 percent shareholding in the new Meatco holding company would turn Meatco into a Mickey Mouse operation with no local and international credibility.

Government intends using the 30 percent shareholding to fund the Livestock Fund to benefit all farmers, especially communal farmers.

Rukoro told New Era in an interview that government's direct shareholding would turn Meatco into another state-owned enterprise that is subject to political control, dictation and interference. "The outcome is fairly predictable," he said. The Meatco Board appointed Rukoro as its new CEO against the advice of the Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, John Mutorwa.

Cabinet approved a new ownership structure and business model for Meatco, which calls for the formation of the Namibia Meat Company Limited, a trading arm for the cooperative. Government would have the veto right on major decisions taken by the trading company through the agriculture minister. For the changes to take effect the agriculture ministry, together with Meatco and the farming communities have to finalise the Namibia Meat Company Bill and the Namibia Meat Company Limited Bill. The bills are currently heading to the Cabinet committee on legislation.

"By law Minister Mutorwa or Cabinet as a whole has no role to play whatsoever in my appointment. As a matter of courtesy they can only be informed. Only when it comes to the proposed remuneration package of the CEO is the Minister expected to express himself on the matter. The Meatco Board did forward the proposed package to the Minister for his comment, and after some time the Minister wrote back saying he has nothing further to say on the matter," said Rukoro.

Rukoro said Meatco is a very serious player in international markets and operates in a very delicate industry. "As such it cannot be subjected to the seasonal politics of interim CEOs who invariably become pawns in a chess game of others' making. I can only refer all fair-minded Namibians to the provisions of section 12 (1) of the Meatco Act, which clearly empowers the board and the board alone, to appoint a CEO. There is nothing illegal about my appointment," he insisted.

He also suggested that there are "a few individuals who have vested interests of a personal nature, and who know my character very well when it comes to these types of self-enrichment schemes, and have good reasons not to welcome me at Meatco".

Asked about paragraphs 4, 5 and 6 of Section 12 of the Meatco Act 2001 which refers to the Minister's power, Rukoro said the power to advise is just that - a recommendation to be accepted or not accepted. "The decision is for the board and not the Minister."

Regarding government's 30 percent shareholding, Rukoro said government cannot just take a shareholding in Meatco but must follow the correct channels including paying appropriate compensation for the shares subject to appropriate constitutional tests. "This begs the question whether such expropriation is the only suitable manner to fund the Livestock Fund." Meatco Board is on record in its submissions to the Minister and subsequently to Cabinet on the shareholding, for not supporting communal farmers in the proposed cooperative council, saying communal farmers have no experience to participate in a directed cooperative.

Rukoro however said he was not aware of such stance. "If that is true, such a position would be untenable as it would be discriminatory and contrary to the Namibian Constitution."

"I have a great vision for Meatco which is shared with the board and which led to my appointment. I have a job to do and I shall deliver on my contract with Meatco in the interest of Namibian farmers," said Rukoro.

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