Namib Mills, Agra in racism storm

Rose-Mary Haufiku

Namib Mills and Agra have been caught in a racism storm, amid allegations that the companies are practicing racial discrimination in recruitment, appointments, promotions and how they deal with work place issues concerning people of colour.

In the case of Agra, documents from the Employment Equity Commission, which is tasked with addressing issues of transformation in organisations and in possession of the Windhoek Observer, show that the company has only appointed two persons of colour to senior and middle management positions since 2016, compared to 31 racially advantaged individuals.

“The Commission wishes to use this opportunity to once again draw your attention to the fact that the workplace profile figures in the senior and middle management levels remains highly skewed in favour of racially advantaged males. This was already pointed out by the Commission to Agra in 2015, and appears not to have been attended to,” the latest letter to the company by the Employment Equity Commission reads.

“Despite this long period of time, Agra Co-operative Limited did not make any progress in addressing the unfavourably skewed figures at senior and middle management levels .This raises concerns about lack of inclusivity and potential racial discriminatory practices at the company.”

Employment Equity Commissioner’s Otniel Podewiltz, confirmed the allegations against the two companies and the authenticity of the documents. “Private sector employers continually failed to bring about meaningful workforce demographic distribution, especially at the three top occupational levels which continues to mirror the legacy of marginalisation along the lines of race, gender and disability. As revealed in our last annual report, white employees are dominant at the three upper occupational levels in most sectors,” said Podewiltz.

Agra’s Senior Manager for Marketing, Chrislemien Stroh, however denied the allegations, despite evidence of communication between the company and the Commission regarding the matter.

“Agra has a firm track record of submitting Affirmative Action Plans every three (3) years to the Office of the Employment Equity Commission. These plans have always been approved by the Office of the Employment Equity Commission, the last of which was submitted and approved for the period 2019 – 2021,” said Stroh.

Documents, however, show that the recent report that Agra submitted to the Commission had not been approved due to shortcomings regarding management categories being skewed in favour of racially advantaged men.

Namib Mills, the known manufacturer of brands such as; Top Score, Namib Poultry, Pasta Pollana and Bakpro bread, also stands accused of racial discrimination when it comes to the recruitment and appointment of management, with no person of colour in its senior management.

Victor Hamunyela, Secretary General of the Namibia Wholesalers & Retail Workers Union (NWRWU) confirmed to the Windhoek Observer that the union have received various complaints from its members regarding the conduct of the company, and how it deals with employees, and had thus formally reported the matter to the Employment Equity Commissioner.

“We have seen numerous people of colour being dismissed without fair labour practice being followed, and also failure by the company to promote people of colour despite their competence,” he said.

Hamunyela cited the case of Namib Poultry, owned by Namib Mills, which he alleged all senior management positions are held by White Namibians or South Africans.

“Namib Poultry, which is also a part of Namib Mills has 58 white employees who are occupying the senior positions and yet they continue bringing foreign South Africans to occupy advertised vacant positions, instead of promoting local understudies to fill in those positions,” he said.

“All the senior officials from the Executive Director to all the positions are all occupied by whites from South Africa. Young white boys from South Africa are recruited and they are taught how to do the work by black people who are working there, but never promoted to the positions.”

He accused Namib Mills of falsifying its equity report submitted to the Equity Commissioner, a position which saw the union objecting to it.

“We informed the Equity commissioner that the report that you have approved, that these people have not complied and it’s not a true reflection of what is happening on site. They even use a different company to submit their report,” the union boss said.

“Agricultural skills are not scarce in Namibia. We have many agricultural colleges and universities but they still fill in those positions with white people from South Africa.”

“We are fighting to get the required majority stipulated by the law. The moment that we get that, one of the first points that we’ll start with is to have the affirmative action in Namib mills readdressed, because you cannot have an understudy of a person for more than six years and you telling me that person is not able to occupy that position.”

Namib Mills Senior Brand Manager, Marne Bouwer, denied the allegations.“Namib Mills gives equal opportunities to Namibian citizens provided that they meet the necessary selection criteria such as qualifications and experience,” she said.

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