01 Oct 2013 03:30
KAYENGONA, 01 OCT (NAMPA) - The Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF) has appointed a manager for the Uvhungu-Vhungu irrigation project, situated on the eastern outskirts of Rundu.
Magreth Matengu, who previously worked in the MAWFs Directorate of Extension and Engineering Services in the Zambezi Region, was introduced to the Uvhungu-Vhungu workers as their new manager last Friday.
Matengu, who holds a Masters Degree in Horticulture, replaces Linus Tashiya, who had been heading the project as caretaker manager since 2010.
On the same day, the workers at the Uvhungu-Vhungu irrigation farm, who had been working without employment contracts for almost four years, also signed their contracts.
The delay was caused by the fact that the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry had to first appoint a Managing Director (MD) to run all Green Scheme projects countrywide.
Petrus Uugwanga, the MD of Agriculture Business Development (AgriBusDev), which is the ministrys business division which will run the Green Scheme projects, confirmed to Nampa on Tuesday that Matengu was appointed on a five-year contract.
Uugwanga also revealed that the employment contracts of all 32 employees at the project have been signed and backdated to 01 September.
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 also alleged that their working conditions had 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 AgriBusDev company structures, grading and job description for every position has also been approved.
AgriBusDev Board chairperson Anna Shiweda told employees during the Boards visit to the project in August 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.
He indicated then 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 pensions 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 furthermore claimed that their status as temporary employees made it impossible for them to, amongst other things, borrow money from banks.
However, the workers were now over the moon when they heard they would finally sign their employment contracts.
One of the truck operators, Petrus Ndumba, actually said the process was long overdue, and they were now looking forward to signing on the dotted line, which they have done.
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.