Farmworker claims ill-treatment

A farmworker from the Mariental area has accused her former employer of stealing her goats after firing her.

16 February 2017 | Labour

A woman who worked close to 30 years on a farm claims she was given 24-hours' notice by her employer to vacate the land after signing an eviction order that she did not understand.

Anna Brand (56) told Namibian Sun that she cannot read and write. When her boss, Danny Liebenberg, handed her the document to sign on 26 April 2016, she was unaware that it was an eviction order against her.

According to her, the police arrived at her home while she was at Liebenberg's house and started searching the place on suspicion that she had buried the carcass of a goat belonging to the farm owner.

According to Brand, she was employed by Liebenberg on the farm Harresville near Mariental many years ago. Brand said she was a trusted employee whose job was to clean the house.

When the police found nothing at her home, they left. Later that afternoon, Brand said her employer asked her to sign a document and instructed her that her brother-in-law was not allowed on the property.

The farmer allegedly accused Brand's brother-in-law of having a criminal record of stock theft.

After signing the document, she called her brother-in-law, Gert Kheibeb, to read the document to her.

“Danny Liebenberg dismissed me without explaining what I did. He told me to sign a document under false pretences,” she charged.

“He paid me N$5 323.60 for the 30 years I had worked for them. During that time, I had accumulated 30 goats. When I travelled to the farm to pick up my livestock with a vehicle that I hired using the payout he gave me, he said he did not have time to put together all my goats and could only give me 16.

“I refused the 16 goats and told him I had already paid for transport to collect all my livestock. I refused to take them and told him that he was treating me unfairly.”

She said she went to the labour office in Mariental to report the matter but she has not received any help. “They gave me no feedback and sent me from one office to another. With help from Kheibeb, we found Jonathan Owoseb, a labour consultant, who then called the farmer to explain the labour laws,” said Brand.

Owoseb said he advised Liebenberg to return the livestock because what he had done was against the law.

According to Owoseb Liebenberg refused, saying his lawyer had advised him not to give back the animals.

“He further told me that Brand should return the payout as he was not supposed to give it to her and only then would she receive her livestock,” Owoseb said.

Approached for comment, Liebenberg told Namibian Sun that Brand resigned of her own free will.

“If you resign, you are not supposed to receive any severance pay. I paid her, but my lawyer advised me that she should return the money, so did the police. She must just return my money because I'm not at fault, only then will I hand over the livestock to her,” Liebenberg insisted.

Brand said she did not have money to give to Liebenberg.

She has sought the assistance of Chief Petrus Kooper of the Kai-

//Khaun Traditional Authority. Kooper said he wanted Brand to get help as soon as possible.

“We want the labour office in Mariental to do their job, fairly and with honesty. This case has been dragging on for too long. Liebenberg should return what rightfully belongs to Brand. You cannot treat someone who has worked for you for many years like trash. It is wrong,” Kooper said.

Kheibeb claimed that farmworkers had been suffering at the hands of their employers for years. He said employers took advantage of illiterate workers and made them sign documents they did not understand, robbing them of their hard-earned income.

“Liebenberg has been robbing Brand for years. Sometimes he would not pay her in full. He would fetch her when it pleased him and this is when she was supposed to be on leave. But because she had no choice she worked for him. Now he is again trying to crook her by taking her livestock,” he alleged.

A legal aid representative in Windhoek, Alovu Ndamonao, advised Brand to open a case of theft with the police and to approach a lawyer for assistance.

Hardap's acting police commander, Joseph Gaeseb, confirmed that Brand had opened a case of theft at Kalkrand last year.

“The case was investigated and the file was sent to the control prosecutor's office in Mariental.

“We have not received the file back and only when we do will we know what to do further,” he said.

LIMBA MUPETAMI

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