Namdeb workers claim union received bribes while workers sleep in the open

Martin Endjala

Employees of Namdeb who have been sleeping in tents in Oranjemund accused the Mineworkers Union (MUN) of taking bribes from the country’s largest diamond miner, to ignore their problems with proper housing.

“We are paid up members to the union. This union ought to fight for us, but for reasons only known to them, they are very reluctant to fight our issue, it seems like they got bribed to look the other way.

We have sent letters to the union but received no feedback until now. We are still sleeping outside and this is unacceptable. We worked for Namdeb for many years, and this is how they are treating us,” said the employee who spoke to the Windhoek Observer on Monday on condition of anonymity for fear of victimisation.

The source claims that the union has failed them by sidelining them and taking the side of the company, demanding an immediate response to the matter.

“Employees are still sleeping in tents, surviving on fast food and Kapanas. The company doesn’t want to negotiate with the affected employees, although the company knows that they have not negotiated with the Union when they redeployed employees from Orange River Mines,” said the source.

The source stated that their decision to sleep in the cold was due to contracts they had to sign under duress. He added that they signed the contracts out of fear of losing out on access to Namdeb’s housing facilities.

The contract is a once-off settling allowance worth N$12 000, to assist them in moving into new accommodations owed by the company where they have to rent.

However, due to exorbitant rent fees that they could not afford, they opted to sleep outside. The source claims that they were happy with the previous contract that allowed them to use Namdeb facilities free of charge as well as accommodation.

The source stated that Namdeb is not the caring company it pretends to be.

“The violation of employees’ rights and victimization is too much,” the source said.

The source also argued that they were not told that the relocation was going to be to rooms and that they would have had to pay rent.

As a result, the workers are demanding the renegotiation of contracts.

These renegotiations, the source said, include workers sharing the price of rent with the company or allowing them to stay for free while they put their financial situations in place for at least two to three years.

In response to these claims, MUN’s Southern Regional Chairperson, Hashondali Kakuti, said he was informed that the Namdeb Branch Executive Committee (BEC) met last week Thursday and appointed a small working committee that will engage Namdeb management on the matter.

Kakuti, was also tight-lipped on giving further information, reiterating that the matter is still at the branch level.

“As the regional structure we have availed our services to all branches in the region but only upon invitation by branches as per various Recognition and Procedural Agreements (RPA) at various branches and the Namdeb branch is one of those branches to whom we provide our services,” he said.

Namdeb spokesperson, Pauline Thomas, when questioned about the matter, said the issue at hand is an internal matter and is being addressed through existing internal channels.

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