Pensioners to Sit It Out Until Demands Are Met

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By Surihe Gaomas & Fifi Rhodes WINDHOEK A group of 30 disgruntled former employees of the Ohlthaver & List Group (O&L) is blaming the minister of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development, John Pandeni, for turning a blind eye to their longstanding pension issue with that company. Speaking to new Era on Tuesday at the company’s premises where they have been camping since last Thursday, the elderly workers say that Pandeni was at that stage of their problem the Secretary-General of the Namibia Allied and Food Workers Union (nAFAU). “Today it seems we are forgotten and our pleas have just been swept under the carpet,” said Alex Kondombolo, spokesperson for the group holding a placard airing their grievances. The elderly also called on the Founding Father of the Namibian Nation Dr Sam Nujoma and President Hifikepunye Pohamba to give attention to their claims, saying they are legitimate. The 16 pensioners include mostly elderly men and two women who come from all corners of the country. They are taking O&L to task over pension monies they allege have not been paid and have accumulated since before independence. Shortly after the country became independent, the workers at O&L were allegedly fired for wearing Swapo-coloured T-shirts and caps issued to them by the workers union. Kandombolo informed New Era that the company then fired all 300 workers – who had served between 20 and 40 years – after they were accused of striking illegally. “As time went by, some of the younger employees were reinstated, but the older ones were left to carve out their own living. All we want is our pension money,” stressed Kondombolo, who added that they have not received their pension until now and have therefore resorted to sitting outside the company’s building until their demands are met. “They were sending us from left to right, but no answers could be found as to who is responsible for the money,” he added. According to the former employees, Ohlthaver and List allegedly dissolved the junior pension fund under their name and changed it to a Retirement Fund that was contracted through the offices of Alexander Forbes. The latter reportedly does not know the complainants, and their names are therefore not in the archives. Last Thursday, the group said it had a meeting with the executive members of the company but that the two parties had failed to reach any compromise over the issue. “We will wait here in front of the office until we receive an acceptable answer,” said Kondombolo who was a long-distance truck driver for many years. When contacted by New Era to react on the accusation levelled against him by the former O&L workers, Pandeni said he is no longer with the union, and is now in fact a minister. “Why can’t they go to Nafau. I’m not with Nafau anymore. They must go to the authority that is tasked with the workers,” he said briefly. However, on their part the Ohlthaver & List Company’s Executive Chairperson, Sven Thieme, said this situation is quite unfortunate, because the company had in fact thoroughly sorted this matter out three months ago, when the affected former workers handed in their petition over their pension claims to the company. “The director took up the matter and everything was checked in the archives as far back as 1989. It took us three weeks to get all the documents. And everything was done and everyting was in order. We also provided all the information. In fact, everything was paid and confirmed,” explained Thieme. He noted that the company would never do anything unjust to its former employees and said these were unfounded claims. Thieme maintained that it is an unfortunate situation that claims should only crop up now wheeas they happened in 1989. “Everything was done, and everything was in order. We remain committed if there is still anything to rectify and, unless they provide legal documentation, we cannot take the matter further,” said Thieme.