Namdeb employees sleeping in tents

Efano: La yandjwa EENAMANANA … Eetenda dimwe omo ovanailonga vaNamdeb ve li 27 va kala tava nangala okudja Etivali loshivike sha dja ko.

… workers not ready to pay rent of up to N$3 000 a month

A total of 27 out of 42 Namdeb shift mine workers have been sleeping in tents at Oranjemund since last Tuesday.

This follows a dispute over accommodation with their employer.

The group was initially employed at the Daberas open-cast diamond mine, located 80km east of Oranjemund, where they were staying in a hostel.

The mine’s operations came to an end in July 2023.

An employee, who spoke to The Namibian on condition of anonymity, says Namdeb kept them at the hostel, but offered them new employment contracts at the Southern Coastal mine, which is about 3km south of Oranjemund.

In their new roles, the employees are expected to live at Oranjemund under their new conditions of employment.

“They used to bus us into town from Daberas every day since August last year. We understood that our employment conditions changed and they told us they were renovating flats in town for us.

“However, we did not receive any notification in advance. We were just instructed last Monday that we should vacate the hostel with immediate effect,” the employee said last week.

The employee said they chose to sleep on the street, because the company is charging them N$3 000 for a two-bedroom flat and N$2 000 for a one-bedroom flat – money they did not budget for.

According to the employee, most of them already have accommodation in Windhoek and Okahandja,where their families reside and where they go when they are off duty.

“We are not against paying rent, we are just requesting the company to give us at least six months to sort out our finances. The problem at the moment is not just rent, it’s also water, electricity and meals.

“At the hostel we used to eat at the mess hall. The flats are also not furnished and we have to sort all these out,” the employee said.

The employees sleeping outside are plant operators and earth-moving machine operators, whose salaries range between N$15 000 and N$20 000 per month.

Employees who are not affected by the current situation had houses in town, while others were renting rooms prior to the announcement.

The Namibian has learnt that 10 of the affected employees have chosen to sign lease agreements.

The issue was brought to the public’s attention by Landless People’s Movement’s local authority councillor Gaume Stephanus.

He says the employees are being forced to occupy the flats.

“Namdeb is accumulating around N$20 million from accommodation facilities at Oranjemund. Where is this money going? Who is benefiting from this money? Namdeb’s core business is to mine diamonds, they are not here to run a real estate company,” he says.

Namdeb managing director Riaan Burger yesterday said the matter has been dealt with extensively between the employer and employee representatives.

He said the involved group of employees were offered different conditions of employment, which all of them accepted.

Burger urged them to move into the accommodation offered.

“There is no intention for Namdeb to make money out of this arrangement. But it would be grossly unfair to the rest of the employees to treat these employees any different,” he said.

He said the employees are not forced to take up the company’s accommodation offer and may make alternative arrangements at the town.

Sources within the company say Namdeb had the option to retrench the employees when the mine’s operation came to an end, but chose to retain them in alternative roles.

To facilitate the company’s transition, the employees were offered an upfront allowance of approximately N$18 000, a source says.

Additionally, the employees are also receiving a housing allowance of at least N$7 000 per month.

The source says the employees are not obligated to live in the flats, but have the option to find alternative accommodation on their own.

Oranjemund mayor Lookback Kasemba says he has engaged with Namdeb to find an amicable solution.

“The problem is that the company did not negotiate with the affected employees. Instead, they simply imposed the rent on them.

“This is happening while they know that accommodation in the town is becoming scarce due to all the activities happening here,” he says.

Mineworkers Union of Namibia (MUN) branch leader Lizazi Munikonzo did not respond to questions sent to him via WhatsApp.

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