Witvlei Might Go the Way of the Dodo

Residents of the sleepy village of Witvlei constantly live in fear of the possibility that Witvlei Meat might close its doors early next year as was reported last Friday by New Era.

“We are doomed and we have no reason to celebrate after the elections,” has become the refrain in any conversation on the main street of the little town where motorists and visitors don’t even stop for petrol for the simple reason there is no petrol in Witvlei.

The vast majority of residents believe it will mean the end of their world as closure of the abattoir would plunge the economy and development of the village into chaos.

“There is no life for any of us after Witvlei Meat,” people tell you, shaking their heads in disbelief and pointing to their children playing in the dusty streets.

Not even the offer of Meatco during the past weekend to take over the abattoir operations on their terms brings consolation to the workers whose factory has already closed for the off-season.

Speaking to New Era recently, schoolchildren and adults alike were in unison that if Witvlei Meat were to shut down and nobody comes to the rescue, the whole town on the B6 highway en-route to Gobabis would collapse.

“After Witvlei Meat re-opened some seven years ago, Witvlei has become a much better place to live in,” says Ouma Maria Gawaxas. At 67, she has spent most of her life in Witvlei, and has seen her children and grandchildren grow up in the village that was already on the brink of collapse some years ago before Witvlei Meat re-opened the abattoir that supplies 165 permanent jobs and another 235 people on a casual basis. “Look around you, Witvlei is nothing without Witvlei Meat.”

“The abattoir keeps the village alive. It is the fuel that keeps us all going every day. Witvlei meat pumps millions of dollars into this little place every week it runs various community projects, and it spends a lot of money to uplift our people by being involved in school activities and sport. They even sponsor our local soccer team,” noted Gawaxas.

Silvester Witbooi, 42, agrees. He has just come all the way from Post 2 south of Witvlei with his only set of wheels: a trusted donkey cart.

With him came some friends and family to buy rations for the days ahead.

“Life is hard in this area, but it would be unbearable without the support of Witvlei Meat. Witvlei has no jobs to offer. I do not own any livestock and make a living by helping out at Post 2 with the caretaking of the animals. Witvlei Meat is the only company that creates jobs in this town and without them, we will all be goners,” Witbooi chukles wryly while pointing at the Witvlei Country Lodge, which has been closed for years and with the closure the loss of jobs.

Confused and desperate employees of the abattoir said government and stakeholders involved must understand their plight, which saw them trekking to Windhoek last Thursday to hand over their letters of grievance to the Meat Board and to the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry about the possible closure of the abattoir in light of the expected small beef allocation to Witvlei Meat for next year’s beef export quota to Norway.

They were informed about Meatco’s offer to take over the abattoir, but they still fear for the worst.

Workers say they have worked there for seven years and by working every day they at least have dignity. They say there is no development going on in Witvlei and they are expected soon to get Build Together houses, but it means nothing if their jobs at Witvlei Meat are not secured.

Annestasia Mujombi, 28, says Witvlei was a place of criminal activities and drunks before the abattoir re-opened.

“Now we have built our dreams here and we cannot have them shattered. Witvlei is our home and our concern. The Omaheke Region cannot afford more unemployment and that is what will happen if the abattoir closes down,” Mujombi says while comforting her siblings Denni and Rihanna after a long drive on a donkey cart.

Source : New Era