Residents Embittered After Being Sidelined

Some residents of Okondjatu in the Otjozondjupa Region are complaining that they are being sidelined for jobs in the construction of the Gobabis-Grootfontein trunk road, while people from other regions are reportedly given priority.

One resident, who did not want his name mentioned for fear of reprisals, alleged over 20 people from Kavango were trucked in to take up jobs that the inhabitants in the area could easily do.

“They say nothing has started when we apply for jobs, but then you see all these people from the Kavango Region coming in to fill the jobs,” he said, adding that the owners of the construction company told them that they were recruiting the same people they worked with on the Okahandja-Karibib road.

Another worker, who also preferred anonymity, complained that many of them were being forced to do jobs they were not hired for.

“They decide for you and they are so rude. They say you either take it or leave it,” he said ruefully, adding that they have complained to Otjozondjupa Regional Councillor, Vetaruhe Kandorozu, and the Otjinene Regional Councillor Kangootui to no avail.

He further alleged that one of the drivers was told to pay N$10 000 or face dismissal for a tyre that was punctured while he was on duty.

Councillor Kandorozu said he had heard about the complaints but did not want to act on hearsay and referred this reporter to Chico (China Henan International Cooperation Group), responsible for construction of the road. Chico’s site manager, Tiger Lee, confirmed they employed some 20 to 30 workers from Kavango who previously worked with them on another project, but said that the majority of general labourers, around 130, were from the area.

“They (Kavango people) know the work very well and at the beginning of the project you can’t employ newcomers,” he said.

He added that they would double the workforce in future but initially they had to bring in experts.

“I know they are complaining because they were not employed, but we cannot employ everyone,” he said. On the issue of people not doing the jobs they were employed to do, Lee said the workers go through a probation period and if they fail the test they are demoted to less skilled jobs.

He said the company could not leave expensive equipment in the hands of those who do not how to operate the machines and vehicles.

Lee denied claims about the driver who was asked to pay N$10 000 or face dismissal, saying that he was aware of what happened but no one was threatened as everything goes through him. The second phase of the tarring of the Gobabis-Grootfontein road, which passes through Okondjatu, on the trunk road TR 142, which links the Omaheke and Otjozondjupa regions is expected to ease transport along this route and provide big economic spinoffs for the residents of the areas.

The TR 142 road is an extension of the over 157km Gobabis-Otjinene road, which was completed in 2012.

The project is expected to be completed in 30 months.

Source : New Era