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Mashare Berries MD denies firing allegations

2022-05-23  John Muyamba

Mashare Berries MD denies firing allegations

RUNDU – Mashare Irrigation and Mashare Berries’ managing director Lourens le Grange has denied claims that the project regularly fires large numbers of workers.

He explained that seasonal workers are employed for as long as they are needed, and the contracts of some workers may have come to an end.

Le Grange has labelled Mashare constituency protestors as dishonest, and said only four workers have been fired over the last two months. These dismissals were done procedurally, as the workers were sacked for fraudulent activities and threats of
violence against the company and personnel.

“It has come to our attention that various false and malicious rumours are being spread in the community with the aim to tarnish the reputation of the company and its management, and we herewith wish to respond to those,” he said when New Era approached him for comment on the assertions by protestors recently. 

“Mashare Irrigation and Mashare Berries at all relevant times comply with Namibian laws and regulations, and specifically the Namibian Labour Act of 2007. At Mashare, four members’ services have been terminated over the last two months; one for fraudulent clocking, while three for threats of violence against the company and personnel,’’ he reiterated.

“In all instances, the correct procedures have been followed for a substantially fair disciplinary hearing in accordance with the Labour Act, which entailed suspension with full salary to allow both parties to prepare for the hearing, and a notice of the disciplinary hearing of at least 48 hours,’’ he noted.

“None of the now-fired members submitted an appeal against the ruling after every procedure was explained to them,’’ Le Grange added.

With regards to accusations that employees were retrenched for no reason with various false narratives provided as reasons, he said from time to time, Berries employs large groups of temporary workers for new plantations, the planting of berries as well as for harvesting, picking of berries, pruning and weeding.

“Those temporary contracts came to an end when the work was completed. From these temporary personnel, some were appointed on a permanent basis while for others, the temporary contract simply just ended. The evidence of the signed temporary contracts is available in the office,” he continued.

“The disgruntled group, which was not permanently employed, then started to spread various false narratives in the community. They first lied to their families and then their neighbours, and continue telling the whole community that they were just told to go home, while in reality the temporary contracts came to an end,’’ he stated. Le Grange said the company can only employ a certain number of permanent employees for each new hectare which is developed. The community also allegedly said people were dismissed because they are against the new berries project, or in other words, that they refuse to give land for the new berries project.

With the ‘new berries project’, it is assumed that reference is made to the Shipapo Wambambangandju project in the Mashare area. It is a fact that Mashare Irrigation or Mashare Berries is not part of the Shipapo project, and the Shipapo project can, therefore, not influence any decisions taken by the management of Mashare Berries,’’ he observed.

Le Grange further said all activities of Mashare irrigation and Mashare Berries are carried out on government land, for which Mashare has a long-term lease and pays lease fees each year.

“Those personnel must accept the fact that they were employed temporarily, and that the temporary contracts came to an end in accordance with the contracts that they signed, and must stop with the false narrative that they were ‘dismissed’ or ‘retrenched’ because they are against that new project (which does not involve Mashare),’’ he added.

Le Grange was also accused of not allowing workers at Mashare to join any union.
“Absolutely untrue. Many of our personnel are members of a union. In line with the stipulations in the Labour Act, we elected not to deduct payments from personnel for the union. Please note that freedom of association is guaranteed in the Namibian Constitution, and also in the Labour Act,’’ he clarified. 

He was also accused that as a manager, he talks aggressively to workers and does not care about their feelings.
“Anyone who knows me or has worked with me will tell you that this is false. However, please be aware that some people are not honest and are spreading malicious lies with a view to tarnish Mashare’s reputation,’’ he stated. 

The protestors furthermore complained that workers are not allowed to complain about the working environment, and if they do, he fires them.

“Also totally untrue. The person making this statement can just give the name of one employee who was dismissed for complaining about working conditions. They will not be able to give a name, because not one was ever dismissed for that reason. Quite the reverse is true in that we have done a lot to improve conditions. All personnel received a 10% salary increase, a 13th cheque in December 2021, and are on a pension scheme from April 2022, where the member contributes 50% and the company 50%,’’ he said. 

2022-05-23  John Muyamba

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