The CEO of Agribank, Ambassador Leonard Iipumbu, yesterday promised that Witvlei abattoir would reopen as a matter of urgency, saying the bank is engaged in a consulting process with stakeholders to get production back on track.
The bank expressed its determination to restore normality at the village where scores of residents were left hanging around after the closure of the abattoir last year.
Some 200 permanent and casual workers were affected by the closure and the abattoir was vandalised until Agribank stepped in with tightened security.
The bank also engaged a company to do an assessment of the state of the equipment at the plant.
Iipumbu was speaking at a media conference where he dismissed a recent report in a local weekly which implied that Agribank was in contempt of an appeal court ruling by refusing to hand over the plant to Witvlei Meat.
In the presence of his legal team, Iipumbu made it very clear that Agribank has always been the owner of the Witvlei plant and would remain the owner until the plant was sold.
Agribank has leased the plant since 2007 to Witvlei Meat for N$250 000 per month with the option to buy for N$15 million.
“However, the purchase agreement which was meant to transfer the ownership to Witvlei Meat was breached due to non-performance by Witvlei Meat and therefore the agreement lapsed on June 26 this year,” he said.
In the absence of transfer of ownership from Agribank to Witvlei Meat, Agribank remains the owner of the plant, and Iipumbu warned that the use of the abattoir by Witvlei Meat for the purpose of the present Norway quota was never negotiated or agreed upon by Agribank, because the bank has not given its consent or approval to Witvlei Meat to apply for the Norwegian beef quota or any other beef export quota.
He said Agribank has fully complied with the court order and granted Witvlei Meat the opportunity to purchase the abattoir for N$15 million and settle the outstanding amount of N$3 million for outstanding rent.
“Agribank signed a purchase agreement with Witvlei Meat on June 5 for the transfer of ownership. However, Witvlei Meat breached the agreement by failing to provide acceptable guarantees to Agribank within the agreed 21 days from the date of signature,” he noted.
“As the rightful owner of the property, Agribank has not given its consent and neither entered into any agreement with Witvlei Meat or any other party at this stage to use the facility to process meat. But we are negotiating with stakeholders now and I will do what it takes from me to bring normality back to the abattoir.”
He says Witvlei Meat failed to make payment by the agreed deadline and the company has since been informed about the failure to comply with the purchase agreement.
Agribank cannot be forced to engage Witvlei Meat and accept the new purchase price or guarantee of N$17 million anymore, Iipumbu said.
He stressed that the Witvlei abattoir facility is public property and will be sold in the interest of the Namibian public and the inhabitants of Omaheke Region.
Asked when it can be expected to reopen, Iipumbu replied: “Soon, very soon.”