NDC to Remedy Inhuman Housing

The Namibian Development Corporation (NDC) says it will spend nearly N$20 million to address the horrendous inhuman living conditions of workers at the Naute dam agricultural project, for which its senior leadership received a public tongue-lashing from President Hifikepunye Pohamba last week. However, the company’s executives yesterday spoke about the “unfortunate” negative potrayal of the company, which shouldn’t be entirely blamed for the living conditions because it is the “workers [who] give us grief” by bringing non-employees to squat in the housing units.

Minister of Trade and Industry, Calle Schlettwein, said he understood the president’s reactions and a taskforce has been appointed under the leadership of the deputy permanent secretary in the Ministry of Trade and Industry to investigate the living conditions of workers on Namibia Development Corporation (NDC) projects. The NDC is a partner in the date and grape agricultural scheme at Naute dam.

“Those conditions are really terrible. We have tasked the management of NDC to re-invest in workers’ accommodation, accommodation that is fit for humans which includes respect for family, privacy, hygiene and the dignity of people. It reminds me of the single quarters set-up before independence and that is what makes this painful,” Schlettwein told New Era yesterday. The task force will determine whether project managers were negligent and subsequent actions will be then be taken. It will report to the minister every second week.

NDC acting manager Pieter de Wet, in an exclusive interview with New Era this week said: “We will spend major on this housing issue, we were told to keep this private but I can tell you that it will be no less than N$20 million for housing at the Naute dam project.”

Chairman of the NDC board John Nekwaya, whom Pohamba dismissed from the presidential entourage during the visit of the Naute dam project, declined to comment.

De Wet said it is unfortunate that the company was portrayed so negatively. “Look, there is a time and place for everything when the president speaks and he was cross and you could not go on the defence. But there are so many contributing factors that resulted in what you saw. There are lots of people there who are not working for Naute dam. You see when you recruit someone they bring their people along. And at times workers insist to stay on even after the harvesting season. We have committees to address this, but then workers give us grief,” he sighed.

De Wet said existing structures and housing facilities would be revamped and additional units constructed. “The tender of N$14 million has just been awarded for the construction of 81 houses at the Mangetti cattle ranch. I know most of the farmers there are staying and prefer traditional homes, but I feel that we have to upgrade,” he explained.

He also said the company is looking at reducing the requirement of seasonal workers in a bid to address the overcrowding at workers’ living quarters. He said the NDC spent N$7.9 million on housing over the last three years. The last units are expected to be completed by the end of this month.

Source : New Era