Workers Hold Former Boss Hostage

A MANAGER at Etosha Transport company was assaulted and held hostage in his office yesterday by three former company employees who demanded that he signs off long service certificates of employment.

Kobus van Zyl, the northern industrial area manager, said he was not allowed to leave his office for about three hours until he signed off original long service certificates for the disgruntled former employees.

He also said the employees demanded that he should pay their outstanding retrenchment money.

The workers involved in yesterday’s fracas are part of 81 who were retrenched last year and were not paid retrenchment packages in full.

Fifty-two others allege that the company caused their bank accounts to be frozen for over two weeks because the company miscalculated some payments for 31 December last year.

The trio broke Van Zyl’s office door when he refused to allow them inside to discuss the issues. While Van Zyl was being held hostage, about 20 other former employees blocked the company’s main gate, threatening that no one would leave the premises until their certificates were signed.

Leader of the group Samuel Uushona, who was a former shop steward at the company, confirmed that they held Van Zyl hostage “after he refused to cooperate with us and the police”.

“They kept promising us that they would give us our long service certificates and outstanding retrenchment packages since the beginning of the month up to now. We came here and were kept waiting again for hours with no response. We got frustrated,” he said.

Uushona said they decided to take matters into their own hands after Van Zyl refused to listen to them and called the police to intervene.

A police inspector, whom Uushona only identified as Muyambango allegedly spoke to Van Zyl, who promised that he would sign the employees certificates within a few hours.

“When that did not happen, we decided to go to his office and told him that he was not going anywhere until those certificates were signed and given to us. He also refused to take a call from Muyambango to explain why he was taking so long to sign,” Uushona further said.

A visibly traumatised Van Zyl told The Namibian that the trio assaulted him. The Namibian noticed the visible but mild bruises on his left arm.

“They told me that they know where I stayed and threatened to hurt my family,” Van Zyl said.

But Uushona maintains that they had only threatened to hurt his family as a tactic to get him to sign the papers.

“We felt we had the right to hold him hostage after he defied the orders of a police inspector,” Uushona said, denying that they had assaulted Van Zyl.

Police were called to maintain order but they waited with the rest of the former employees while Uushona and his two colleagues sorted out their differences with Van Zyl inside the offices.

A police inspector on the scene, Elias Haipinge, declined to comment and referred questions to the police spokesperson.

Contacted yesterday, Edwin Kanguatjivi said he did not know about the incident.

The company’s business development manager, Dave Mills, said the impasse was broken when he signed the certificates of the former employees after the situation got out of hand.

“Nobody has been allowed out since 10h00. People were ranting and raving,” he said.

Mills, who said he did not have authorisation to speak to the media, promised that employees would get their money for overtime and kilometres today.

“I can understand their frustration, but keeping everyone hostage is not right. People could not even pick up their children from school at lunch time because they were not allowed to leave” he said.

Mills also said due to miscalculations, some employees were paid more than others, resulting in overpayments and underpayments.

“The banks had to recover the money that was overpaid in those accounts, but the company is not responsible for the freezing of anyone’s account. You’ll have to talk to the banks about that,” he said.

Source : The Namibian