'I am not a monster'

An Otjozondjupa farmer has denied wrongdoing, after being accused of mistreating San farmworkers.

11 October 2018 | Labour

Chief Joseph Gomoseb has accused the labour ministry of protecting Abraham Blaauw, an Otjozondjupa farmer who is allegedly maltreating and exploiting San workers.

However, Blaauw has rejected the allegations.

“That is simply nonsense. I am not a monster. They caused me a lot of damage. Instead of the

N$7 740 that I had to pay them, I gave them more than N$9 000 and was forced to write off one debt.

“Also tell Chief Joseph that I will take him to court if he drags my name through the mud,” said Blaauw.

He also accused the San workers of threatening him at the labour office in Okahandja.

Blaauw said he is a respectable retired banker who would never mistreat workers.

According to him the San workers ate more than they earned and failed to deliver even one packet of braai wood in 46 days.

According to the chief, seven workers that harvest wood at farm Uitkoms were left hungry for three days.

“He also has other Owambo workers at another farm whom he pays more than a N$1 000 per month, but the 'Boesmans' do not get the same treatment,” Gomoseb claimed.

Gomoseb said he was sent from pillar to post between the labour ministry's offices in Okahandja and Windhoek, with no one willing to solve the problem.

He also accused Blaauw of deducting more than two-thirds of the workers' wages for food and refusing to meet with them at the labour ministry's office in Okahandja.

“He went into the labour office where he talked to the officials without the presence of the workers. Blaauw also threatened to hurt one of us in the office. Something is not right there; I think I must just appeal to the president because no one is helping us,” said Gomoseb.

According to him, Blaauw offered to pay the workers N$200 each in the presence of labour officials at Okahandja.

Labour ministry permanent secretary Bro-Mathew Shinguadja said he was aware of the case and confirmed that Blaauw had left N$2 290 at the Okahandja office for the seven San workers.

“He put them in different envelopes for everybody. Some got N$200 or N$300 or whatever. The chief was informed that the money was there, but he told the workers not to take the money.

“The labour officer told him that even if the money was not enough, it is best that they take the money because they will have to eventually put it in the bank, and that would mean they will have to go to the bank with identification documents and there will even be bank charges,” Shinguadja said.

He said the chief was advised to fill in a form for mediation and conciliation, which was sent to the labour commissioner's office, but the chief still ordered the workers not to take the money.

Shinguadja said a proper investigation is needed into the allegations that two-thirds of the workers' wages were deducted for food.

He said it is wrong for an employer to deduct more than one-third of a person's wages.

“He (Blaauw) may have bought expensive food, which people did not need. Maybe he bought an expensive brand, while there was a cheaper brand. And that is why the labour inspector is saying the people must take the money he has left there, so that the rest can be done by the conciliator or arbitrator.”

JEMIMA BEUKES

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