WINDHOEK – The acting General Secretary of the Namibia Farm Workers Union (NAFWU), Rocco Nguvauva says the union is unhappy with transport arrangements for workers at the Aussenkehr grape farm.
His comments come in the wake of an accident in which a truck transporting 200 workers overturned leaving about 139 workers injured last week. The union says the accident is a direct result of gross negligence and those responsible should face the full force of law. Nguvauva was speaking at a press conference at the NAFWU offices in Windhoek yesterday. The union has labelled the accident a criminal offence. “This accident is a criminal offence and therefore justice needs to take its course,” he said.
Nguvauva strongly condemned the transportation of workers in trucks, which he says are meant to transport goods and other items. “Such vehicles were made for the purpose of transporting goods and employers need to respect the lives of people instead of wealth,” he stressed. Nguvauva further says the issue of transportation has been raised with employers in the past, but it seems this has fallen on deaf ears. “Injuries sustained are a sign that employers still continue to treat workers as less important than their motor vehicles,” he charged. The unionist says he is aware that companies buy trucks to transport goods, as well as their employees in order to keep costs down. “The consequences of a short-term profit [mentality] endangers the lives and wellbeing of employees.” Nguvauva further said he strongly supports the statement made by the Minister of Works and Transport, Errki Nghimtina, in which he called for respect of the Road Traffic and Transport Amendment Act, 2008.
“Overloading is not only practiced at Aussenkehr or on farms only, but it is also very common in the capital,” he said. Citing the example of routinely overloaded municipality busses, Nguvauva said the community cannot sit and wait for another accident to happen before something is done. “Our investigation has revealed that some of the members will never be productive again, and I am asking what will happen to them,” Nguvauva said referring to some of injured employees. He further saluted the Motor Vehicle Accident Fund (MVA) and the government, specifically the ministries of health, works and transport and private citizens in the //Karas Region who rendered help by offering their vehicles to transport the injured to hospitals, while waiting for ambulances. “But what happened to decentralisation if we have to wait for medical help to come from as far as Windhoek to render services to people 800km away, will this benefit our Vision 2030,” he asked.
The union is further demanding that the company pay all workers, who were involved in the accident and who may have suffered permanent injuries, their full salaries until they reach the age of 60. Digressing slightly, Nuguvauva also joined the fray in condemning the slaying of Axarob Slinger who was last week shot and killed with his three dogs. His body as well as those of the dogs were stuffed in an aardvark burrow at Vergenoeg farm in the Hochfeld district of the Otjozondjupa Region it is alleged. “I recall very well at times when visiting farms, especially the white farming community, the view expressed that this is my private land, Sam Nujoma land is there at the gravel road, on my farm I will do as I feel like,” he said.
By Kuzeeko Tjitemisa