Uumati challenges suspension amidst allegations of discrimination

Niël Terblanché

Dr Martha Uumati, the suspended Managing Director of Erongo Marine Enterprises (EME), has initiated legal action against the Oceana Group, accusing the company of unlawful suspension and discrimination

The dramatic twist in the dispute, which has sparked widespread attention, centres around allegations of racism, gender discrimination, and procedural irregularities in Uumati’s suspension process.

Uumati found herself in the middle of a storm following her suspension last week.

According to Advocate Richard Metcalfe, Uumati’s legal representative, the suspension came without a formal board resolution from Oceana’s local subsidiary and disregarded Namibian company legislation.

Metcalfe further accuses Oceana’s CEO, Neville Brink, of engaging in discriminatory practices against his client, based on race and gender.

The root of the controversy appears to be Uumati’s absence from a meeting in South Africa, deemed critical by Oceana Group for planning a Namibia Competition Commission (NaCC) hearing.

Oceana has stated that the suspension was necessary to facilitate an unhindered investigation into Uumati’s conduct and behaviour.

In response, Metcalfe has questioned the procedural aspects of the suspension, including the legality of appointing Callie Jacobs as interim managing director and the refusal of leave for Uumati, viewing these actions as manifestations of a broader discriminatory agenda.

The case has not only drawn the ire of Uumati and her legal team but has also mobilized the workforce at Erongo Marine Enterprises.

Employees have voiced their discontent, alleging corporate bullying by the Oceana Group and demanding a transparent explanation for Uumati’s suspension.

The workers’ solidarity with the suspended MD emphasizes the high regard in which she is held, both as a leader in the fishing industry and as a trailblazer for women in a traditionally male-dominated sector.

As the legal battle unfolds, the case has escalated to the Labour Commissioner, although Uumati has since withdrawn her claims.

The situation remains fluid, with the potential for conciliation and arbitration proceedings to provide a forum for addressing the allegations and disputes.

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