By Staff Reporter
ONGWEDIVA – The company rehabilitating the dilapidated Eenhana-Okongo road in Ohangwena Region is exposing labourers to a difficult working environment by having them use hammers and axes to break big stones to gravel the road.
Kata Investment – owned by young entrepreneurs Kaupumhote Pohamba and Taschiona !Gawaxas – is in a joint venture with China State Construction Engineering as contractors on the project.
The project worth N$100 million is pencilled in for completion by July this year.
According to concerned eyewitnesses and passersby, labourers on the phase one stretch of 25km from Eenhana to Elundu are subjected to hard physical labour to break large stones instead of using grinding machines.
Passersby who notified New Era say the scene at the site reminds them of the colonial era when people were expected to dig boreholes with their hands and baskets to transfer the debris.
“This is really unacceptable and indeed a very sad scenario that 25 years after independence imageries of the colonial era continue to be portrayed in an independent Namibia. Where are we headed to?” said one motorist.
Omaundaungilo Constituency Councillor Festus Ikanda confirmed that when he visited the site on Monday morning he found the men and women using hammers and axes to break stones.
Site manager Shuang Zhanga dismissed the allegations, saying that what the labourers break up are not stones, but surface material.
He also further dismissed allegations that crushing stones with hammers is an everyday activity at the site.
“We have machines, but if the machines cannot break the surface material then we ask the labourers to break them,” said Zhang.
Asked whether he does not feel he is compromising the labourers’ safety, Zhanga said the company has given the labourers uniforms, boots and gloves.
Namibia Building Workers Union (Nabwu) Secretary General Victor Hamunyela urged workers to refrain from exposing their employees to hazardous work that endangers their lives.
He stressed that employers should not react after accidents, but should rather ensure that the safety of their employees are prioritized.
He said employees have the right to vacate the workplace if their lives are endangered as stipulated in the Labour Act.
“Our law has made provision that employees have the duty to vacate a place of work if their lives are endangered and no employee will take action against them; they can even go sit under a tree,” said Hamunyela.
Meanwhile, a labour official has already been assigned to the site in question.
Despite, the labourers’ hardships, constituency councillor Ikanda said the progress to rehabilitate the road is going very well so far although there is a slight delay as a result of the rain.
He said so far, 7 to 15 km of the 25 km stretch has already been covered.