Windhoek: Defiant Meatco livestock producers want an immediate audience with President Hifikepunye Pohamba, to discuss their opposition to a Cabinet resolution that government should have a 30 percent ownership in a restructured Meatco. The aim of the meeting with Pohamba “is to appeal to Cabinet to accept the industry stakeholders group’s proposal” that government has no ownership in Meatco, producers said at their annual general meeting last week.
Meatco is responsible for the management of livestock abattoirs and the marketing of meat products to international markets.
However, the Minister of Agricultural, Water and Forestry, John Mutorwa, under whose ambit Meatco falls, says there is no going back on Cabinet’s decision on government shareholding and veto rights in a new Meatco structure.
What is left is for Meatco members to work with the agriculture permanent secretary, Joseph Iita, on finalising the two draft Bills that would establish the cooperative wholly owned by livestock producers and the Meat Trading Company in which government would own 30 percent, with producers owning the majority shareholding.
“I am duty bound, to once again, call upon Meatco board and all livestock producers, to henceforth concentrate on and provide their expected inputs, towards the finalisation of the two proposed Bills,” stressed Mutorwa.
The minister appealed to Meatco members to accept and understand that the agriculture ministry did not make the decision, but merely “announced the ten final Cabinet decisions.” Mutorwa said the proposals from Meatco’s board, received on November 30, last year, were largely accepted by the Cabinet.
The only proposal that was not accepted is that government should not have any shareholding in the soon to be created Meat Trading Company as provided for in the draft Bill. Meatco members disagree with the Cabinet decision on the ownership of Meatco, the operational structure and legal framework, saying their proposals on the matter have not been taken into account, hence the decision to request an audience with the Head of State.
“The meeting expressed disappointment and concern with regards to government’s lack of transparency relating to the process of determining the future ownership, operational structure and legal framework of Meatco,” read one of the motions from the Meatco AGM.
Mutorwa said the envisaged structures will be established through laws and pass through Parliament “with or without that vocal minority who are so allergic about hearing the name government of the Republic of Namibia.”
It took five years for Cabinet to make a decision on the reform of Meatco, a state-owned entity inherited from the previous South African administration. Even though new legislation, the Meatco Act 2001, replaced the old SWAMEAT ordinance of 1986, a number of concerns remained, which prompted Cabinet to ask for proposals on reforms that would ensure equal participation of all livestock producers in the country.
However, it was only towards the end of last year that Cabinet arrived at the final decision, a process that is said to have brought voluminous proposals from different quarters within the industry. Cabinet has decided that Meatco ownership be vested in a unique cooperative with 70 percent shareholding by producers, with government owning the other 30 percent.
Cabinet also directed that an entity - the Namibia Meat Company Limited be established as a trading arm for the cooperative. Government would have veto right on all major decisions taken by the trading company through the Minister of Agriculture.
The 30 percent shareholding of government will go towards the Livestock Development Fund, which is yet to be established in order to fund veterinary activities. What is left now is the finalisation of the Namibia Meat Company Bill and the Namibia Meat Company Limited Bill.
However, Meatco, which solicited opinions from members through its own committee drawn from the livestock industry, said it is “disturbed” by the notion of government having a direct stake in Meatco. This, they claim, “impacts [on the] country’s free market economic principles that essentially drive our economic growth.”
They point at state-owned Botswana Meat Commission (BMC), where the Botswana government had to absorb losses of 400 million Pula during the last two years. “BMC also lost its EU export status which literally brought that country’s livestock industry to a virtual collapse,” Meatco said in a statement.