Fishing boss suspended after promising to tell investigators the truth

Martha Uumati
… Lucky Star owners suspended MD just in time for the price fixing probe in Windhoek this week.

Erongo Marine Enterprises managing director Martha Uumati warned her bosses a week before she was suspended that she would be transparent with the Namibian Competition Commission (NaCC), which is currently investigating allegations of price fixing in the fishing industry.

Price fixing involves that companies illegally agree to set the same high prices for their products, instead of competing with each other to offer lower prices.

This is considered harmful to customers who end up paying more for fish.

Uumati’s suspension has blocked her from providing the NaCC with crucial information.

She has managed Erongo Marine Enterprises since 2017.

Erongo Marine Enterprises is a wholly owned subsidiary of Blue Continent Product, which is in turn a subsidiary of Oceana Group.

Oceana Group, a South African company, also operates the well-known Lucky Star fish brand.

Uumati was suspended on 13 February for allegedly failing to attend a meeting in person at Oceana’s offices in Cape Town –– allegations she strongly denies.

Her suspension comes a week before Oceana is scheduled to be interviewed by the NaCC.

According to documents submitted to the Labour Court and reviewed by The Namibian, Uumati has been warning Oceana Group executives since 2023 that she would disclose truthful information to authorities if questioned.

The Namibian understands Oceana executives flew into Windhoek yesterday to be interviewed by the NaCC, which launched an investigation into possible price fixing of quota usage fees paid to fishing rights holders last year.


In emails Uumati seeks clarification on why certain documents regarding quota agreements between Erongo Marine Enterprises and right holders were excluded from the submission to the NaCC to the company’s legal advisers.

In the mails Uumati took issue with her affidavit to the authorities being changed.

“We seek clarity on why we were advised to exclude the above information,” Uumati said in an email dated 4 February.
She also expressed concern over her exclusion from discussions regarding quota usage fees, since Erongo Marine Enterprise is directly involved in the investigation.

Uumati also asked why the Namibian finance team’s role is ignored, with Blue Continent Product’s finance team placed at the forefront of providing information.

She also indicated a lack of consultation to prepare for the investigation.

Uumati expressed her anxiety about the investigation and its potential consequences.

Oceana’s chief executive, Neville Brink, in response to Uumati confirmed that the group has appointed an external legal team to handle queries at the NaCC.

The legal team also represented the group during yesterday’s interview.

“I have every trust and confidence in our legal team’s ability to best represent Oceana … It is therefore imperative that we follow their advice and instructions,” said Brink.

Neville Brink


Brink and managing director of Blue Continent Product Ina Botha suspended Uumati from her positions as managing director and board member of Erongo Marine Enterprises on 13 February.

Uumati approached the office on 14 February to challenge the decision.

The resolution passed by Botha and Brink accuse Uumati of gross insubordination, dereliction of duty and conduct unbecoming of a senior executive.

She is also accused of flagrantly disregarding a specific instruction to attend an important meeting in person at Oceana’s office in Cape Town on 13 February.

This allegedly happened despite having been given clear instruction to be physically present at the meeting.

Uumati was suspended immediately pending an investigation and possible disciplinary hearing.

She is now seeking relief for what she perceives as unjust suspension.

Uumati argues that Brink and Botha had no power to suspend her.

In her filing, she is also seeking the cancellation of the suspension and to be reinstated with the same employment conditions prior to her suspension.

She also wants the labour practices of Oceana Group to be declared unfair.

Uumati, through her lawyer Richard Metcalfe, argues that her contract stipulates that she reports directly to the board of directors of Oceana, and not to Brink or Botha.

She says no board meeting was held to deliberate on her suspension, nor was she given a platform to tell her side of the story.

The arbitration request comes after Brink ignored instructions by Metcalfe last week, ordering him to reinstate Uumati.

In the request, Metcalfe instructed Uumati to report for duty on 19 February.

She turned up for work, but found her predecessor, Callie Jacobs, who retired in 2017, as the interim leader.

Metcalfe, in a letter to Brink, said Uumati’s suspension was illegal as no resolution was passed by Erongo Marine Enterprises’ board.

Brink and Botha did not respond to questions sent to them via WhatsApp and email this week.
Uumati declined to comment.

Hajra Karrim


Employees wrote to Brink early this week to demand Uumati’s reinstatement.

“We demand that our MD be reinstated with immediate effect. We fail to understand why Oceana would bring in an outsider to act, while we have competent line managers under which the company has been performing beyond expectations.

“This will prompt external authorities, like the line ministries, also to take drastic action and suspend our fishing licences and quotas because of irrational decisions from Oceana,” the employees said.

They requested the parties to meet and find an amicable solution.

Uumati is the first Oceana Group leader to be suspended.

In 2022, group chief financial officer Hajra Karrim was suspended on a precautionary basis “pending a further process’.

Brink took up the position of CEO, following the sudden resignation of Imraan Soomra in the same year.

Following Uumati’s suspension, Namibian right holders whose quota is being managed by Erongo Marine Enterprises demanded answers from Oceana, as they only found out about the suspension through the media.

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