Miner vanishes leaving workers unpaid

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WINDHOEK – A fly-by night manganese miner owing workers more than N$1.6 million in salaries reportedly vanished into thin air after extracting enough minerals for self-enrichment at a site in the Hochfeld area in the Otjozondjupa Region.

Namib Manganese Mine, a subsidiary of Sino Africa Resources, which employed over 40 workers to dig manganese deposits since 2012, apparently took flight after it was instructed by the Labour Court last year to pay the employees overdue monthly salaries and leave days owed to them.

According to the company’s former employees, Markus Makaza and Alfons Kavehaha, most of the site operation managers were from Britain, Senegal and India and their last whereabouts were apparently traced to South Africa.

Workers demanded to be paid, but there seems little that the company can do, as the managers seem to have fled the country.
Makaza says he started working for Namib Manganese in 2012, as a deputy manager who recruited other workers.

“We were told that if we dig enough stones, we will receive a production bonus,” he said, adding that many of them worked slave hours for the months of August and September 2013 and found the ‘stones’, which they crushed.

The company apparently ordered a truck to export the minerals.

“When we asked about our production bonus, they started insulting us and then suspended me, claiming that I was instigating the workers,” related Makaza, adding that he had to wait until January 2014 to get his salary.

But in March that year, Makaza was apparently recalled and they were told to dig 1 500 tonnes of manganese deposits, which they did.
“They promised us that everything was in order and that the company had acquired N$60 million for operations and N$500 000 for salaries,” said Makaza.

But to their shock and surprise, the company’s general manager Louis Neethling apparently told them that Namib Manganese has been taken over by Sino Africa and the workers should sign a six-week contract.

Kavehaha said that they then called the Mineworkers Union of Namibia (MUN), to whom they are affiliated, which told them not to sign the contract.

In the meantime, the mining company had apparently also cut 18 workers without proper notice.

“We asked them where is the notice, but they just said there no more work,” said Kavehaha, adding the 18 workers did not get a salary for May.

He said that those workers who remained were sent on a ‘pay-weekend’ in June, but when they were returned, the company had apparently already packed up everything and had transported 2 500 tonnes of manganese deposits and left.

In a letter seen by New Era, the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare instituted a criminal case against Sino Africa and Namib Manganese in November last year for violation of the Labour Act.

Attempts to reach Namib Manganese Mine’s directors and owners, one Neethling and Adam Piper and Sino Africa’s directors or owners, Jagdish Parekh and T. Smith and Jeremy Green were all in vain as the numbers were off or cut off.

Secretary general of the Mineworkers Union of Namibia (MUN), Ebben Zarondo, said that while the union was in negotiations with the company, they shipped all their mining equipment to South Africa.

“Now, the case is with the Prosecutor General to follow them to South Africa,” he said.

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