FARMWORKERS employed at green schemes under the Agricultural Business Development Agency (Agribusdev) countrywide are yet to be paid their January salaries, but are still going to work and performing their duties.On 26 January this year, Agribusdev’s a…
FARMWORKERS employed at green schemes under the Agricultural Business Development Agency (Agribusdev) countrywide are yet to be paid their January salaries, but are still going to work and performing their duties.
On 26 January this year, Agribusdev's acting managing director, Berfine Antindi, sent a memo to all staff members explaining why their salaries were not paid.
"As it stands, the company has no money for salaries, which has been paid by the Ministry of Public Enterprises for the past months," Antindi said.
She said funds received from the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform are to be used for summer cropping inputs only.
"This money came with clear instructions from the ministry . . . and all the projects have copies of those letters," she said.
On 2 February, the Namibia Farmworkers' Union (Nafwu), through their regional coordinator Simaho Seke, wrote a letter to Agribusdev complaining about the agency's unfair treatment of Nafwu members.
"This delay started a long time ago and has now become a vicious cycle. The members of Nafwu have been complaining about this several times, and now their patience is lost," Seke said.
The letter provided background on how the union has engaged with Agribusdev on previous occasions when payment issues arose.
"On 9 September 2019 Nafwu wrote a letter to the late director of Agribusdev regarding the same issue, however, the issue still continues," Seke said.
Agribusdev, which was formed on 3 November 2011 with the mandate to manage green schemes countrywide, has not been short of controversial news in the past two years.
In July 2019, The Namibian reported, the company did not pay workers salaries.
Last year, the company was in the news again when its former managing director, the late Petrus Uugwanga, took his own life following his suspension.
A green-scheme employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity, says he is fed up with the issue of not being paid arising every year.
"If Agribusdev is unable to manage green schemes, and it's clear for the government to see, why does the government still allow it to run projects?" he asks.
The employee says when green schemes were managed by private companies, they did not experience issues of non-payment.
Kupembona Andreas, a shop steward at the Aussenkehr Orange River irrigation project, says: "Saying that green schemes do not make a profit and that is why Agribusdev fails to pay its employees cannot be used as the reason."
He says the project's managing director at a meeting admitted the problem lies with managers not being able to sell harvests.
"We made a profit this month," Andreas says.
Additionally, there seems to be conflict between Nafwu's regional structures and executive members.
Sources say it's understood that some non-members are keen to join Agribusdev employees on a strike.
"This does not sit well with the union members in the regional administrative structures. What's the point? How do you demonstrate with employees who are not even members of the union?" an anonymous member says.
On Thursday last week the unions' executive members met with Agribusdev to discuss the payment issue.
"As a trade union, we are still engaging the relevant authorities to see how we need to deal with the issue of salary delays," Nafwu's regional organiser Frans Kamati last week said.
"We have to wait for the final findings before discussing it with the media," he said.
Efforts to get comment from Agribusdev board chairperson Sophia Kasheeta, proved futile.
Source: The Namibian