The mothballed Witvlei abattoir, regarded as vital to the livelihoods of hundreds of people in the one-street village of Witvlei, is set to open in a couple of weeks, board chairperson Sidney Martin confirmed yesterday.
News of Witvlei’s reopening has brought a lot of joy to former employees of Witvlei Meat that New Era spoke to.
Martin told New Era that although there are a few pertinent issues to be resolved, the abattoir is ready to reopen its doors.
“We are going to open in a couple of weeks,” said Martin without giving a specific date.
He said veterinary services in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry have done the necessary inspections and given the company the green light to reopen its operations, whose closure resulted in substantial revenue losses for the company.
Ovavi Henguva, a former employee of Witvlei Meat, said he was excited by the news since he has been suffering.
“We have been surviving on selling kapana that did not guarantee us a monthly income,” Henguva said.
Another former employee Kazandona Kahiha said the reopening was what he had been hoping for.
Witvlei Meat’s woes started early in 2014 when a reversal of Cabinet’s decision of 2010 to split the beef export quota to the lucrative Norwegian market on a 50:50 basis between Meatco and Witvlei Meat, resulted in Witvlei Meat being awarded only 300 metric tons of export beef for Norway while newcomer to the market, Brukarros Meat Processors (BMP), was awarded 100 metric tons and Meatco the bulk of the annual allocation of 1 600 metric tons for the lucrative market in Europe.
Earlier this year, Witvlei Meat took Agribank to the High Court, asking the court to restore possession of the premises to it after Agribank took possession of the abattoir.
According to papers before court, Agribank instructed the deputy sheriff of Gobabis to secure the premises and remove the applicant.
Agribank financed the construction of Witvlei abattoir by a company called !Uri Khubis for N$60 million in 2003.
The latter failed to acquire European Union (EU) standard certification to enable it to export beef to the EU.
In 2004, Uri Khubis was placed under liquidation and Agribank then bought the abattoir for N$11 million.
In August 2006, Agribank entered into a lease agreement with Witvlei Meat for the latter to lease the abattoir for two years. The two parties subsequently became entangled in court disputes over the ownership of and right to access the property.
In April this year, High Court Judge Collins Parker ordered Agribank to restore Witvlei Meat’s possession of the abattoir.
Parker also authorised the deputy sheriff of the High Court for the Gobabis District to do whatever is necessary – including breaking open locks barring access to the abattoir – to restore the company’s possession of the property.
Witvlei Meat used to employ more than 170 people on a full-time basis and some 35 casual workers, and their earnings from the abattoir provided an income for some 740 people.