Workers want SELCo out

13 Nov 2016 10:40am
KEETMANSHOOP, 13 NOV (NAMPA) – The workers of the Southern Electricity Company (SELCo) on Friday threatened the Keetmanshoop Municipality with legal action, should the local authority extend its electricity supply contract with their employer.
The workers were expecting to be absorbed as a unit into the municipality as from 01 November 2016, a day after a 15-year contract between SELCo and the municipality came to an end.
The municipality abandoned its plan to take over electricity provision to residents, complying with a directive from the Ministry of Urban and Rural Development, which wants to see a Regional Electricity Distributor established in the south.
That, in addition to the municipality’s apparent inability and unpreparedness to fully take over this basic service, then prompted the authority to negotiate an interim one-year contract with SELCo.
The company’s workers in a statement read on their behalf by a local youth activist objected to the municipality’s contemplation to sign with SELCo.
The protest note was read in front of the SELCo office in the presence of residents who marched through the streets of Keetmanshoop denouncing the company’s continued presence in the country.
All 28 Namibian workers, except Managing Director Abraham Kukuri, signed the petition.
The workers requested the community group to deliver the note on their behalf as they were prevented from engaging in any protest action during working hours due to their position as essential workers.
“It was with complete disbelief [that] we were informed that Council has backtracked on its decision to take over electricity … resulting in revolt and hostility to a prevailing and already ill-fated working environment,” the statement, signed by Julian Jacobs, SELCo Branch Chairperson for the Mineworkers Union of Namibia, said.
The workers branded the decision “undependable”, “unconsidered” and “reckless” – stating they would seek legal counsel regards the job offers signed with the municipality.
One worker anonymously told Nampa that local SELCo employees were tired of being “remote-controlled” from Pretoria by the foreign company.
“All of us are fully qualified and able to take over electricity services on behalf of the municipality to residents. They should rescind their decision and insist on taking control of this service.”
The worker said that Aranos, a village in neighbouring Hardap Region, this month took over electricity supply from SELCo.
“If that small village can do it, what is preventing Keetmanshoop from doing so?” the worker asked.
SELCo currently also manages electricity at Karasburg.
Approached on the workers’ demand on Friday, Keetmanshoop Mayor Gaudentia Krohne said the workers should be patient.
“We have not signed anything yet. The Keetmanshoop Councillors and SELCo have an urgent meeting with the Electricity Control Board on Monday to decide on the way forward,” Krohne said.