Witvlei Meat yesterday reacted strongly to Agribank’s claim that it is the legitimate owner of the Witvlei abattoir, accusing the bank of unjustly holding N$1.5 million of Witvlei Meat’s money and “extortion” of a further N$3
Managing Director of Witvlei Meat, Hendri Bahenhorst, reacted to Agribank CEO Ambassador Leonard Iipumbu who in an interview with New Era last week announced the bank is (as legal owner) currently in the process to
consult its stakeholders on the future of the operations at the facility, which closed down overnight in December
2014 and left some 200 workers unemployed.
Badenhorst refuted various statements attributed to Iipumbu, saying Witvlei Meat offered to pay the prevailing
market price before the matter was heard in the Supreme Court to save Agribank the embarrassment of losing in the highest court in the country.
“Agribank refused this offer and insisted that the matter be decided by court – only to ignore the court’s
ruling ever since and making a shambles of the basic principles of rule of law and rights,” he fumed.
He says Case No SA 27/2013 was heard in the Supreme Court on October 2013, followed by a ruling on May 27 2014 that Agribank unjustly withheld ownership from Witvlei Meat since May 2010.
“Agribank not only frustrated Witvlei Meat to take ownership but also exploited the situation by having forced Witvlei Meat to pay N$250 000 per month which was fully paid up until the Appeal Court’s ruling. One would
think common sense would have kicked in, but a year after the ruling, Agribank was simply frustrating the
process and refused to sign the agreement. Eventually, after issuing summons to enforce the signing of the
purchase agreement, and with its quota reduced dramatically, operations came to a halt in Witvlei. Our board had no option but to sign another purchase agreement that included N$15 million plus a further N$3 million that was
charged for ‘rental’ – a year after the Appeal Court ruling.The intention was to claim back the N$3million legally.”
Badenhorst says although it was never a condition of the agreement that a bank guarantee should be provided within 21 days, Witvlei Meat nevertheless did that but only after Agribank forcefully removed
Witvlei Meat from the property on August 05, 2015. This is now the subject of a spoliation application
in the High Court (Case No 15479/14).
“Witlei’s air to breathe was taken away almost at the same time as the Agribank matter was heard in the Appeal Court in October 2013. The Norwegian shareholders in Witvlei Meat did not support the matter being decided by
court and followed their own strategy to implement changes to its own benefit.
“At the same time, Witvlei Meat’s Norwegian shareholder Nortura jumped ship and signed an agreement with Meatco after, since investing in Witvlei Meat, Nortura’s subsidiary NoriDane underpaid Witvlei Meat with more
than N$50 million.
“Agribank can ignore a Supreme Court ruling, unjustly hold N$1.5 million of Witvlei Meat’ money, extort a further N$3 million, introduce a new term to a contract and fail to mention that they have a spoliation application in
court later in February and call themselves rightful owners while deciding the fate of the abattoir, but they
can’t hide from the truth,” he stated.
“No wonder Agribank calls for calm, but the truth is stronger than the lie. Justice will prevail and Witvlei Meat abattoir’s fate will not be decided by Agribank or Nortura but by court as we are ruled by law in this country,” Badenhorst said.
The standoff between Agribank and Witvlei Meat on the purchase price led to a court application by Agribank to evict Witvlei Meat from the premises due to illegal occupation thereof. The court found in favour of Agribank and
granted the eviction order.
Witvlei Meat appealed the order to the Supreme Court, which in essence directed that Witvlei Meat be granted the option to exercise the option to buy the abattoir from Agribank.