NHE Bows to Pressure

IN AN attempt to avert a crisis after about 400 construction workers threatened to demolish 120 National Housing Enterprise (NHE) houses, the beleaguered parastatal yesterday scrambled to come up with funds to pay the workers.

Despite owing Greencycle Investments a total of N$70 million, NHE could only cough up N$2,5 million.

This money will be used to pay the disgruntled workers today, Henny Seibeb, a Greencycle Investment director, confirmed yesterday afternoon.

Last week, The Namibian revealed that close to 400 workers spent Christmas and New Year’s Day penniless after NHE failed to settle its debt with Greencycle.

Following the threats by the workers that they would destroy the houses, the Metal and Allied Namibia Workers’ Union (Manwu) called an urgent meeting.

Yesterday’s meeting, initiated by Manwu secretary general Justina Jonas, took place at the head office of the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare.

It was attended by Seibeb, Jonas, NHE’s senior manager for technical services and property management Uazuva Kaumbi, as well as a director for labour services.

Confirming the meeting, Kaumbi said the parties had reached an agreement. “We’ve made some undertakings and hopefully, the workers will be paid by Wednesday (tomorrow).”

NHE only managed to scrape together N$2,5 million – a drop in the bucket of N$70 million which it owes Greencycle Investments.

“It’s only for the outstanding wages.”

Jonas also confirmed the meeting upon enquiry, but said she was not at liberty to disclose the amount.

According to Seibeb, the difference between the total N$70 million and the N$2,5 million “is part of ongoing negotiations”.

NHE yesterday transferred the money directly into Greencycle Investment’s bank account.

Seibeb denied that the bank will offset this money against the thousands of Namibia dollars which this bank is slapping Greencycle Investments with interest and penalties.

The workers are employed by a company called EPK that was subcontracted by Greencycle Investments, which is in a private public partnership with NHE for the construction of 308 houses at Rundu. So far 120 houses earmarked for the first phase have already been completed.

Seibeb earlier confirmed that the workers were not paid for December and that they have threatened to demolish the houses.

Seibeb then said: “[The] workers are threatening us, saying they will break down the houses.”

One of the construction workers at the Rundu site, Felix Haingura, also told The Namibian last Monday that there were threats to demolish the houses and kill or harm the employers.

Just like many other workers whowere not paid, Haingura said he and his family had nothing to eat for Christmas and New Year.

The situation, Haingura said, has resulted in the working relationship between employees and employers turning sour.

“It created misunderstandings and threats,” he said.

On Monday, Brian Kahengombe of EPK said: “Yes, we have not been paid. To be honest, we followed up with Greencycle and they said that they had not been paid by NHE.”

EPK Rundu site manager Tiaan Marais also said the workers could not travel to be with their families.

“They also couldn’t pay for rent and meet other commitments,” he said.

Seibeb said his company submitted its invoice to NHE for N$80 million on 1 December, and was only paid N$10 million, which they used to pay bulk service providers, leaving nothing for subcontractors.

Seibeb said NHE chief executive officer Vinson Hailulu claims government is refusing to release funds.

Hailulu last week pleaded ignorance about the crisis. He is on leave and has apparently not been briefed about the developments. He was still on leave yesterday.

Source : The Namibian