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Bring back our Meatco

2023-02-15  Edward Mumbuu

Bring back our Meatco

A group of commercial beef producers – mainly previously advantaged farmers – are demanding that government immediately stops meddling in the affairs of the Meat Corporation of Namibia. 

Instead, Meatco must be returned into the hands of commercial farmers, who know how to run the beef value chain’s affairs, the group’s representative Riaan van Wyk said in no uncertain terms. 

The company used to be a cooperative run by farmers. “Our aim is to take Namibia forward,” Van Wyk said, adding that Meatco started heading south immediately when government started meddling in its affairs and it was made a full-blown State-owned enterprise. 

This meant that commercial farmers were pushed to the periphery of decision-making, and all powers centralised in the minister. Van Wyk recalls current works minister John Mutorwa being the man at the helm of the agriculture ministry back in 2011 when things began to degenerate. 

“All SOEs are failing. The current management and board [of Meatco] are not capable of leading the institution”, he said.

Commercial farmers and local banks, he continued, have lost faith in Meatco. “Give us a chance to take back Meatco, and make it trustworthy and profitable again,” he added. 

In essence, the farmers – predominantly white – want to take control of Meatco, completely. 

“How is it that BeefCor, which is privately-owned, is flourishing, while Meatco is not?  [It is because] Meatco has become a political playball that the government is using,” Van Wyk said. 

“Give back Meatco to us,” he buttressed. 

The group is also hellbent that Meatco withdraws its operations in the Northern Communal Areas (NCAs), north of the notorious red line, completely. Failure to heed these calls, these farmers threaten to end ties with the entity. The orders – predominantly by white commercial farmers – to Meatco are non-negotiable and were initially placed before Meatco’s top brass at a meeting last month. 

Van Wyk reiterated them yesterday upon enquiry. Multiple sources, including Meatco’s CEO Mwilima Mushokabanji, corroborated the events of the day. 

In January, Meatco held a special general meeting for its members to, among others, provide an update on its operations in line with section 14 of the Meatco Act. Soon after the Meatco leadership presented its update, however, the corporation was inundated with an avalanche of impractical commands from some commercial farmers who find themselves south of the red line. 

New Era is reliably informed that white producers want a representative of their choosing on the Meatco management to purportedly represent their interests. 

Those with intricate knowledge about Meatco’s dealings say the group was given an opportunity to anoint an individual among them to serve on the Meatco board, following the departures of former board chairman Johnnie Hamman, his deputy Clara Bohitile and fellow board member Kay Dieter Rumpf in June 2021. 

“When they were given an opportunity to add another member to the board to replace Hamman, they stated that they don’t just want representation, they want to have influence in decision-making. In other words, they want a majority in the board,” one the sources who attended the meeting elucidated. 

It was, however, resolved that these concerned producers appoint a working committee as an organ of the Meatco board, but “they refused”.

What was clear in their tone was simple: It is either their way, or the highway. These wishes came with a price tag under a package called ‘repairing trust’. “It is either Meatco dances to their music or they stop slaughtering with Meatco,” the person in the know added. 

“Their tone is consistent, and they keep on sending the message that Meatco belongs to the farmers, and this ownership issue must be resolved,” another source briefed on the matter echoed. Additionally, the farmers also requested for delayed payments that date from a few years back. 

Meatco, they said, must pay an interest of up to 11% as an overdraft accrued due to late payments, a demand to which the corporation wants supporting documentation. 

Instead, the farmers stuck to this demand. 

“Meatco requested that the demand must be factual, and everyone can be reimbursed on actual charges. They said ‘our demand is final and non-negotiable’,” the insider said, again throwing spanners in the entity’s works.

This is all while a private rival company – Savanna Beef Processors – is all but certain to enter the beef terrain in the final quarter of 2024. 

But Meatco has not always been in such a mess, and remains one of the few public entities to have never taken the begging bowl to Treasury for a bailout.



Another inalienable request at Meatco’s doorsteps is to completely close down its operations in northern Namibia. 

According to people briefed on the issue, white farmers south of the red line are of the view that their profit is being used to keep Meatco’s operations in the NCAs afloat. 

“They feel like farmers in the NCAs are riding on their profit and as a result, they are not getting fair prices per kilogramme for their slaughter as some funds are channelled to cover the operational costs of the loss-making Meatco business in the NCAs. They demanded that Meatco should withdraw itself from there,” the insider added. 

Then the bombshell dropped, as Meatco was taken to school about its core business. 

“The farmers requested that Meatco should stick to their business of slaughtering animals, and not mingle with their business of buying cattle from communal farmers, particularly the Ovaherero people. The whites want to buy directly from the Hereros and deliver them to Meatco, instead of the company directly buying,” was another prayer from the said group. 

Meatco, however, finds itself between a rock and a hard place as far as the demands are concerned. 

“It is estimated that more than 90% of the cattle Meatco slaughters are from these farmers. Meatco, therefore, knows for sure that if they don’t adhere to the demands, they will close the next day,” the source said. 



In the face of what he termed unsustainable demands, Mushokabanji said Meatco will not swallow the requests hook, line and sinker. 

Responding yesterday, he confirmed the meeting and its character. 

“On the northern communal areas, Meatco has always been very clear. Meatco withdrew out of the NCAs in 2015, and of course the current management was not part of that,” he said. 

When Mushokabanji and his team came on board in 2020, they came up with a strategy to accommodate northern farmers into the mainstay of the lucrative beef sector. 

“Meatco’s mandate is to stabilise the meat industry, inside and outside the country. The first issue was that we needed to develop a market for the NCAs. We saw opportunities in Ghana, Angola, DRC and Congo Brazzaville. Luckily at the time, the government had just signed the Africa Continental Free Trade Area agreement. So, we had those engagements, and those markets were developed,” he noted. 

At present, Meatco is the NCAs’ lifeline to Angola and Ghana.

Another strategy was developed to allow meat from the north to be consumed south of the red line, with the assistance of the directorate of veterinary services in the agriculture ministry. 

“Now, meat from the NCAs does find itself in the international market in Europe, China and the US through commodity-based trade. We are now able to make sure that beef from Rundu, Katima Mulilo - the two abattoirs we’re running - is consumed in the south,” he said pointedly. 

In addition, Meatco is finalising the process to start exporting beef to the Middle East, its CEO confirmed. 

“The reason why we’re doing this is to make sure that ultimately, the hallmark of agricultural production is to maximise returns to a farmer who is spending input costs to raise a cow or oxen that is ready for slaughter. You need to get something out of that. That is the role of Meatco. We will continue doing that,” he said, dashing the hopes of those who want Meatco to cease its northern operations. 

From Meatco’s view point, the demands were being shoved down its throat, it could be deduced from his answers. 

“Farmers had their demands. Unfortunately, those demands are not sustainable, and the board members applied their minds and feel that what’s important for us is to make sure we build mutual respect with all the farmers across the country, and do whatever we can to ensure we’re able to stimulate and appetise farmers to remain in production,” he added.

2023-02-15  Edward Mumbuu

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