‘Some farmworkers earn as little as N$200’

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Windhoek

Outgoing councillor of Okorukambe constituency (formerly Steinhausen), Kilus Nguvauva, says some farmworkers in the country earn as little as N$200 a month.

Work on Sundays and public holiday is often not paid for as it should be per the provisions of the Labour Act, the outgoing deputy minister of works further observed.

Against this background, Nguvauva, who is also the chief of the Ovambanderu, strongly feels government should deploy more labour inspectors to especially rural constituencies to combat the situation.

He also recommended that labour inspectors be placed in constituency offices to work with councillors.
It is easy for urban dwellers to report their grievances at labour offices, Nguvauva observed. But on farms, it is difficult for financially challenged farmworkers to travel distances of more than150 kilometres (in some instances) to Gobabis where the labour offices are situated.

“The distance is what makes it difficult. For me it was easy to travel to the different farms because I was appointed as deputy minister,” he said.

“I had transport and could move about easily because I knew our people were suffering on the farms.”
The outgoing councillor takes pride in having harmonised the relationship between commercial farmers and their workers. He added that there are only two or three labour inspectors in Gobabis, which is the nearest town for farmworkers in the constituency.

Nguvauva, who says the situation on farms in Okorukambe constituency is much healthier than when he was elected as councillor in 1998, admitted though that commercial farmers still very much exploit their workers.

Workers on these commercial farms, predominantly owned by white farmers, are mostly blacks with little or no education.

“Most of these people are illiterate and when they are signing contracts the farmers would say they will, for example, earn N$500 while on the document it indicates that they will earn only N$200,” explained Nguvauva.

Nguvauva says he had developed a strategy whereby farm owners and their employees could contact him for labour-related disputes and if no solution was found the matter was referred to labour offices.

He said he often had to invade commercial farms to mediate in disputes that employees and their employees could not agree on.

“Sometimes things even got physical where I would be beaten by the farm owners,” Nguvauva said.
“The people on the farms have confidence in the government that is why they kept on electing me, but if they lose confidence in the government what will happen to them?” said Nguvauva.

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