Eveline de Klerk
Utuseb-Six labourers from the Topnaar community halted the construction of 15 pit latrines, claiming their wages were not commensurate with the labour intensive, backbreaking work they had to endure on a daily basis.
The disgruntled labourers claim they will only receive payment of N$5,400 to construct the 15 toilets, which they have to share among themselves.
One of the labourers, 52-year-old Nikkie Beukes, said construction work should have started a week ago, and they should have completed it within two weeks.
“We were picked up from our homes last week to start but we decided not to do so, as it is impossible to work for N$60 a day without any food in the harsh environment of the Namib Desert,” he said.
The project has scheduled the construction of the pit latrines at Homeb, Middle Post, Soutwater and Natab 2.
Beukes alleged that the local chief negotiated their salaries on their behalf.
“We don’t know whom they awarded the contract to, as we are only subcontracted to carry out the hard work. Why were we not contracted directly to carry out the work, and why it was put on tender is a mystery to us.
“Just because we are illiterate does not mean we have to be side-lined when it comes to such work,” Beukes lamented.
Another labourer, 42-year-old Epson Awaseb, told New Era he could not understand why they gave the tender to someone else while there were so many unemployed Topnaar people.
“This could have been a collective community project. Now they awarded the tender to someone from another region at the expense of our people,” he said.
Awaseb added that they want the opportunity to sit down with the contractor so that they can directly negotiate with him for better wages.
“At least we should each receive N$100 per toilet built, as N$60 is way too little,” he said.
When contacted for comment Chief of the Topnaar Traditional Authority, Seth Kooitjie, told New Era that the traditional authority had nothing to do with the contract.
The Erongo Regional Council through the Walvis Bay Rural Constituency Office awarded the tender.
“We only requested the toilets for our people, but I understand that they awarded the tender to someone from another region,” Chief Kooitjie said.
The chief further added that he could understand why the labourers were disappointed.