Windhoek-Agriculture minister John Mutorwa says there is nothing illegal about the Meatco board, as its appointment was done within the provisions of the Meat Corporation of Namibia Act. Further, the appointments were done after thorough consultations with the Ministry of Public Enterprises, as well as the attorney general.
Mutorwa sat down with New Era to clarify the misconception around the appointment of the Meatco board yesterday, giving the background to how the appointment of the current board members came about.
“Our conscience is clean here. There is nothing illegal about the board,” said Mutorwa, adding that the appointment was done according to various provisions of the Act, which clearly stipulates the process of nominating people to the board and the manner in which the minister appoints such members.
“If there are other reasons then let them come up. If there are new facts, let us hear them,” said Mutorwa, adding that the appointments were done according to procedures set out in the Act.
His explanation comes hot on the heels of the annual general meeting last week where tempers flared after some farmers wanted to halt the meeting and questioned the company’s current board chaired by businesswoman Martha Namundjebo-Tilahun.
Mutorwa said he had last year explained matters to Meatco’s interested group, who included commercial and communal farmers. He also pointed out that the Act does not mention an election of board members. Instead section five of the Act mentions that members of the corporation are to nominate people who could represent their interests as communal and commercial farmers, and the agriculture minister is empowered to select persons from those nominated who would serve on the six-person board.
“There is no election of board members,” said Mutorwa, adding that he had said this much last year when the issue came about, saying then that there were no vacancies.
The current board was first given the mandate to serve for a three-month period, from October 2016 to January 2017, as per the provision of the Act, which allows an extension of the term for three months until a successor has been appointed.
Mutorwa said that following the expiry of the three-month period, he then consulted with the Minister of Public Enterprises, Leon Jooste, who pointed out that provisions of the Public Enterprises Act allow him to authorise any line minister to appoint a temporary board.
“On the basis of that advice I appointed the temporary board members. We thought the problem was solved then, but later there came a letter from the Meatco chief executive who now said the appointment was illegal. As far as I am concerned it is legal,” said Mutorwa.
He further said the Meatco management eventually threatened the agriculture ministry with legal action, and as a minister he took up the matter with the attorney general, who again confirmed that the advice of the public enterprises minister was valid, and that the agriculture minister can invoke specific sections of the Act that gives him the power to appoint board members.
About the meeting which Meatco held to nominate new board members, Mutorwa said it was not valid because Meatco’s Act clearly says “the chairperson of the board shall act as chairperson at any meeting of members, including annual general meetings and board meetings.” The fact that the meeting at which Meatco made its nominations was not chaired by the chairperson invalidates that meeting. Mutorwa said Meatco’s lawyers have also conceded that the board’s appointment is correct, and have not gone to court as they had earlier threatened.