25 Years of Dedication

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By Surihe Gaomas SWAKOPMUND Working on a mine might sound like a common routine-like job, but to Hendrik //Awaseb it means a whole lot more than that. Over the years he’s built a career at one of the world’s most recognised uranium mines. New Era paid a visit to his residence in Swakopmund and spoke to the man that’s worked 25 years at RÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶ssing, making him a role model to those that today still make job-hopping a regular habit. “I am a poor man while alive, but I will die rich leaving behind an income for my family,” said the man who is in his late forties. With the motto of hard work and determination pays off at the end of the day, he has stuck it out to work as Senior Shovel Operator Manager at RÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶ssing Uranium Mine near Arandis over the years. As one of the company’s few long-standing employees, ‘Hennie’ as he’s affectionately known, believes that hard work and diligence is the key to success. In February this year, Hennie was one of four employees awarded for their steadfast dedication for the past 25 years of employment at the RÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶ssing Uranium Mine – recipients of a long service award. Nowadays, with all the frequent job-hopping and ever growing unemployment rate, not many Namibians stay long at one job and Hennie’s story is therefore a valuable learning experience. Born in the northwestern town of Khorixas, as a young man Hennie was introduced to the mining trade by his father David //Awaseb, who himself was a mine operator during the colonial era. “When I was young he took me through the process of how graders work and I became very curious. Sometimes I would hide in the vehicle on which my father travelled to work, only to go and see how the work was done,” he said all smiles while reminiscing about his childhood days. The road was however an uphill battle especially before independence, as opportunities for the previously disadvantaged communities were very limited. Yet Hennie’s determination to know more about the mine operating business pushed him through thick and thin, although he admitted times were very tough. “Getting a licence for driving an abnormal heavy duty vehicle was not easy at all as such machines were only driven by the privileged few. But I managed to pass my license with flying colours and I got through,” he said, gently placing the framed certificate on the coffee table. For a year he first worked as an operator under the Government in Khorixas. Later on with his acquired experience as a young man, Hennie then left Khorixas and joined RÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶ssing Uranium Mine as an ordinary operator working himself up the ranks to Senior Shovel Operations Manager. As stated on his award, that was way back on February 20, 1981. Since mining is his first love, Hennie admits that he enjoys his work, although at times the weekly routine eight-hour shifts can be exhausting. “You have to work hard because there is no time for laziness. You don’t get everything on a silver plate unless you are committed to your work,” said Hennie as he picked up his backpack into which his wife Enesta packed all his favourite goodies. This included a lunchbox full of fruit and some meat, whole wheat bread slices and fresh milk. During a normal day’s work, Hennie is responsible for a 50 square metre area of the mining operations and also administers his group of employees every morning by holding a safety meeting. Safety comes first at RÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶ssing Uranium Mine where workers are fully made to understand the importance of safety when working in the large open pit mine. As a team leader Hennie therefore gets together with his group of workers giving them instructions and guidance about safety equipment and any kind of emergencies. “Safety is number one at RÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶ssing because it is very dangerous. You must be medically fit and healthy and must not sleep on duty. Random testing is also done for alcohol and drugs as well as urine tests,” explained Hennie, adding that such risk assessment is crucial. Over the years mechanical instruments used at the mine have changed dramatically and due to the high number of advanced technological machines less people were needed in the labour force. This was done as a cost-saving measure. That’s why during 1991-1992 the mine ended up retrenching some employees on a voluntary basis. Although most of his friends took the option of taking the money and leaving the company, Hennie was not interested. “At that time I thought about my future and my family. Many of my mates that took the packages ended up with nothing at the end of the day and today are struggling – some even want to come back,” he said. For him it was all about sticking to the one job he loves the most, while keeping the sound benefits of a growing pension and other benefits for himself and his family. “It’s all about planning for the future,” he added briefly before taking his backpack to go and take the bus that passes his residence in Swakopmund. “At the same time when you are over the age of 40, finding another job is not easy,” he explained. “So as long as my health can sustain me I will stay at RÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶ssing – I want to (vasbyt) hold on until the end,” added Hennie with a smile. As the blue and white bus pulls up to make another pick-up for those that have to take on the afternoon shift work, Hennie before leaving his residence gave this word of advice: “Be dedicated to your work and stick to the rules and regulations that come with it and most importantly think before taking any action. Try and build on your work experience, rather than breaking it down.”