Chicken producer Daybreak Farms has placed its acting CEO on precautionary suspension, just over a week after it fired his predecessor. (Getty)
- Another top executive has been placed on suspension at chicken producer Daybreak Farms.
- Daybreak Farms is one of South Africa’s largest integrated chicken producers, slaughtering over a million birds a week.
- Earlier in the month, Daybreak fired its CEO Boas Seruwe, saying its relationship with him had ‘irretrievably broken down”.
Chicken producer Daybreak Farms has placed its acting CEO on precautionary suspension just over a week after it fired his predecessor.
In a statement on Thursday, Daybreak Farms, which is wholly owned by the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), announced that it suspended its acting chief executive officer Cobus van Niekerk.
Daybreak said it had a “fiduciary duty to place Mr Van Niekerk on precautionary suspension” given the findings of a forensic investigation. Thabi Segoale has been named the group’s acting CEO.
Van Niekerk’s precautionary suspension comes nine days after Daybreak board fired his predecessor, Boas Seruwe.
In a letter terminating Seruwe’s employment contract, of which Fin24 has a copy, Daybreak stated the relationship between it and Seruwe had “irretrievably broken down” and there was “no prospects whatsoever that the employer/employee relationship can be salvaged or improved in any way”.
Seruwe has said he will be approaching the Labour Court for relief over his termination, as he had not had the benefit of arguing his case before a disciplinary hearing. “They terminated me before a hearing,” he told Fin24 last week. “Why are they afraid? What kind of justice is that?”
Two other executives have also been placed on suspension and still have to face disciplinary hearings.
Some senior staff at the group have spoken out about a climate of fear around the new board, saying it is trying to pressure them to stop criticising it. Seruwe and five other top staff members are being sued by Daybreak for allegedly making “false” and “unlawful” statements. News24 is also being sued by Daybreak for defamation in relation to two articles published in February.
“We are fighting giants here,” said a source, who asked not to be named for fear of retribution.
The forensic report that Daybreak Farms relied on to suspend Van Niekerk was conducted by a business consultancy called Schaefer-Schmidt LLP.
On Wednesday Fin24 reported that the consultancy had copied large parts of its website from US-based FTI Consulting, which says it has never heard of Schaefer-Schmidt LLP.
Its website, which was only registered in January this year, has gone offline. It has not responded to multiple requests for comment from Fin24.
Daybreak is sticking with the consultancy, telling Fin24 it was “satisfied with the investigation conducted by Schafer-Schmidt LLP”.
“Recommendations from the forensic report are currently being implemented in a responsible manner that will ensure minimal disruption to operations,” it said.
The PIC has said that Fin24 should direct all queries to Daybreak.