24 Sep 2013 06:50
KAYENGONA, 24 SEP (NAMPA) - Workers at the Uvhungu-Vhungu irrigation farm who have been working without employment contracts for almost four years, will finally sign their contracts on Friday.
The delay was caused by the fact that the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry had to appoint a managing director to run all Green Scheme projects countrywide.
Government took over the management of the Uvhungu-Vhungu project in the Kavango Region in May 2010 after it terminated its contract with the previous service provider, Chris Lewis.
Workers have however been complaining that since Government took over the project, they have not signed employment contracts, and have also alleged that their working conditions have worsened.
The project is said to have experienced a relatively high turnover, with the number of workers having decreased from 47 in 2009 to 32 this year.
The ministry some four months ago however appointed Petrus Uugwanga as the Managing Director (MD) for Agriculture Business Development (AgriBusDev), the ministrys business division which will run the Green Scheme projects.
Uugwanga confirmed to Nampa on Tuesday that employment contracts for all 32 employees at Uvhungu-Vhungu will be finalised on Friday, and will be backdated to 01 September.
The newly appointed farm manager for the irrigation project will also be introduced to the employees.
The AgriBusDev MD however refused to disclose the name of the new Uvhungu-Vhungu manager, saying it will only be made public on Friday.
The new Uvhungu-Vhungu farm manager will replace Linus Tashiya, who has been heading the project since 2010.
The AgriBusDev company structures, grading and job description for every position have also been approved.
AgriBusDev Board Chairperson Anna Shiweda told employees during the Boards visit to the project last month that once they have signed the employment contracts, the success of the Uvhungu-Vhungu project will depend on their hard work, which will ensure food security and self-sufficiency for Namibia.
Agriculture, Water and Forestry Minister John Mutorwa has on several previous occasions pleaded with workers who had been complaining of working without contracts at the irrigation farm, to be patient.
Mutorwa earlier indicated that the ministry wants to run the project according to professional business principles and in July this year, he jokingly noted that employees who may have deserted the project will not be allowed to return.
The employees never enjoyed any employment benefits such as pension or medical aid, and the only deduction from their salaries were Social Security Commission (SSC) payments.
Some employees were earning as little as N.dollars 400 per month, which was given to them in cash in envelopes.
The disgruntled workers claimed that their status as temporary employees made it impossible for them to, amongst other things, borrow money from banks.
The workers were over the moon when they heard they would finally sign their employment contracts, with one of the truck operators, Petrus Ndumba saying the process was long overdue and they are now looking forward to signing on the dotted line.
Uvhungu-Vhungu is one of the six Green Scheme projects in the Kavango Region. The others are the Shadikongoro, Shitemo, Ndonga Linena, Sikondo and Musese projects.