NDC Board chairperson under fire over Naute accommodation

15 Mar 2014 14:40pm
NAUTE DAM, 15 MAR (NAMPA) - The Chairperson of the Board of the Namibia Development Corporation (NDC) came under fire on Friday following a discovery that workers at the Government-owned Naute Dam project in the South are living in substandard conditions.
John Nekwaya, who was part of a high-powered delegation accompanying President Hifikepunye Pohamba during his visit to the date project on Friday, was ordered to leave the delegation after the President found out that the NDC’s management team is allegedly mistreating the workers at the project.
“You (Nekwaya) are no longer part of my delegation. Do not follow me anymore. I do not want see you following me during this tour. Please, stay away and go,” the visibly angry Pohamba said as he gave Nekwaya his marching orders.
The NDC Board chairperson took his leave without saying a word.
The incident occurred in the presence of Minister of Trade and Industry Calle Schlettwein, Agriculture Minister John Mutorwa, Justice Minister Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana, //Karas Regional Governor Bernardus Swartbooi and the Swapo-Party Regional Coordinator for the //Karas Region, Matheus Mumbala.
Taking things further, Pohamba even asked a cameraman of the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) and other local journalists to film and take photos of the NDC Board chairperson.
Nekwaya himself delivered a short speech on the success and future plans of the project before Pohamba took a tour of the project.
During the tour, Pohamba described the living conditions of the over 500 workers and various casual workers as being completely unacceptable.
A group of about 10 workers live in a single accommodation unit which was initially designed to cater for about four people.
Some of the workers are being accommodated in two big tents due to a lack of proper accommodation facilities despite the fact that the Government-owned project, which is run by the NDC, has been making big profits over the past few years by selling the dates produced there to the European market and neighbouring South Africa.
“I see these people are being mistreated by the management of the NDC. It touches me as a Head of State when I see people who voted me into position of leadership being mistreated the way you are doing at this project. This is my first time to see people living in a very bad situation at a Government-owned project,” said Pohamba.
He went on to say he cannot accept the situation and it must be rectified with immediate effect.
“How on earth can so many workers be put together in small rooms like animals? Even goats cannot be accommodated in such a situation. These bad living conditions must come to an end,” said an angry Pohamba.
To make matters worse, there are no health facilities for workers or their children, and people who fall ill have to be transported to Keetmanshoop, some 50 kilometres away from the project site.
There is also no kindergarten for the children of workers despite the fact that the Naute Dam date project has been in existence since 1990.
In addition, the labour relations between the NDC management and workers are not optimal as the company is said to have a habit of terminating workers’ contracts at will.
It also came to light during Pohamba’s visit to the project that the workers are employed on a monthly contract basis and as such, they have to sign new contracts every month.
Meanwhile, despite workers living in bad conditions, work at the project is progressing well and the company is reported to have recorded huge profits over the past five years.
The NDC’s Acting Managing Director Pieter de Wet has assured President Pohamba that the workers' living conditions will be improved in the next six months, saying a new building contractor has to be appointed to renovate the housing units.