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Workers demand answers over Uumati suspension 

2024-02-20  Eveline de Klerk

Workers demand answers over Uumati suspension 

SWAKOPMUND - Employees of Erongo Marine Enterprises are up in arms over the suspension of the managing director, Martha Uumati. 

They are now demanding answers from their holding company, Oceana Group, alleging that Uumati is being subjected to corporate bullying by the group. 

The workers, who visited New Era yesterday, are demanding an immediate meeting with Oceana’s top management. They claim to be in the dark about the suspension, as no one has addressed the developments in the company with them. “Nobody gets suspended just like that. They must come down to Namibia and explain to us fully what transpired. Uumati is one of the progressive bosses in the fishing industry, and a woman who had to toughen up against this male-dominated industry,”
the workers said. They added that her suspension was not done in accordance with the Namibian Labour Act.

“We will take it to the streets and protest for her reinstatement if they do not withdraw their so-called illegal suspension,” the workers charged yesterday. The legal representative of the suspended Erongo Marine Enterprises’ (EME) managing director has also questioned the motive behind his client’s suspension, stating that there is more to it than what the company is willing to reveal. Richard Metcalfe of Metcalfe and Beukes attorneys said there was no board resolution taken on her suspension.

The lawyer stated in a strongly-worded letter to Oceana Group, seen by New Era, that there is simply no resolution by the board of directors of EME regarding the suspension, and that it is unprocedural.

Uumati was suspended on 13 February by Oceana Group CEO Neville Brink and Inna Botha. According to the suspension letter, Uumati disregarded an instruction
to attend an important session in person in Cape Town. This publication understands that the meeting was scheduled to plan for a Namibia Competition Commission
(NaCC) hearing, where EME is scheduled to appear.

“You are hereby informed of an investigation into your conduct and behaviour. Following this investigation and depending on the outcome thereof, charges may be levelled against you in a disciplinary inquiry. Due to the sensitivity of these allegations, the company believes it is necessary to suspend you with immediate effect, in your capacity as managing director of EME and board director, on full pay for the duration of the investigation and any disciplinary action”, they wrote.

Oceana Group, in the meantime, have appointed Callie Jacobs as the interim managing director of EME.

However, Metcalfe questioned the suspension in a series of letters addressed to Oceana’s legal representatives, Köpplinger Boltman, stating that there is far more at play than what has been disclosed in correspondence to date.

“Please advise exactly on what corporate law your client purports to act in Namibia. Our client is not prepared to allow her good name and reputation to be sullied by foreigners. It is conceded that these two individuals have no legal entitlement in terms of Namibian company law to suspend our client as a director. Neither do such individuals have the right to suspend our client as managing director,” he said in his letter.


Questioning Jacobs’ Appointment

Metcalfe has also questioned the group’s decision to appoint former managing director Jacobs as interim MD.

He stressed that the appointment defies all reason in law and logic. 

“An illegal, colonial mentality unfortunately shines glaringly through your illegal conduct,” he stated in his letter.

Metcalfe reasoned that the company is using dirty tactics, and has apparently
issued an instruction that any leave applied for by his client must be refused.

“Unfortunately, all of your illegal
actions emanate from white persons, and are aimed at an eminently educated and competent black female to tarnish her
image. Your conduct smacks of blatant racism and gender discrimination,” he continued.



Köpplinger Boltman replied that Uumati is only on precautionary suspension, despite the initial letter not noting it.

“At the outset, we are instructed to record that your client has not been suspended or removed from her function and office as director of the board of EME. She is only on precautionary suspension in her capacity as an employee in the position. 

As a shareholder of EME, the company reserves its rights in respect of the provisions of section 228 of the Companies Act, Act 28 of 2004,” the letter seen by New Era

It further noted that Uumati is suspended from her duties, “with suspension conditions intended to protect the interests of both your client, her employer, and the shareholders”.

Köpplinger Boltman furthermore indicated that to have reported for duty yesterday would not have been in the
interests of both Uumati and the company, as well as the shareholders.

“It would not be in your client’s best interests to breach such conditions by reporting for duty on Monday, 19 February 2024. In regard to the allegations of ‘an
illegal colonial mentality’ and ‘blatant racism and gender discrimination’, as referred to in your letter, kindly confirm that such statements were made on your client’s instructions to you. Our clients, in any event, reserve their rights in respect thereof,” they observed. However, Uumati showed up for work yesterday.

“Consequently, our client was advised at such juncture to depart from the premises of her employment as managing director at Erongo Marine Enterprises. She was
advised to capture every minute of her time at Erongo Marine Enterprises (Pty) Ltd on video. This video recording is now safely in our custody,” Metcalfe stated.

The company's lawyers stated that
Uumati opted to resolve the dispute regarding her suspension by escalating it to the Labour Commissioner, and “the appropriate forum for our client to respond to such allegations will be during the upcoming conciliation and arbitration proceedings”.

Meanwhile, she has withdrawn her
claims from the Labour Commissioner.

2024-02-20  Eveline de Klerk

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