Unrest at Mass Housing site

A large group of construction workers gathered at a building site in Swakopmund last week where they threatened to burn down houses because they had not been paid their wages.

30 November 2016 | Labour

Some Mass Housing houses built by the Delta Group in Swakopmund were nearly destroyed by a group of about 50 of the company''s employees last week after they had not received their wages.

The workers gathered at the construction site on Wednesday for the first time, where they threatened to burn down the houses if their outstanding wages were not paid by 17:00. Police managed to calm the angry workers, who left the site with the promise of returning again on Friday to collect their wages.

Although the company again failed to pay the outstanding wages on Friday, its managing director, Koos Gouws, left two of the company''s vehicles at the Mondesa police station as surety that the wages would be paid.

“We have advertised both vehicles and we have found a number of interested buyers. As soon as we receive a payment we will follow the necessary steps to ensure our workers are paid,” said Gouws.

According to Gouws the company, which was awarded a tender to build 400 low-cost houses under the Mass Housing programme, ran into cash-flow problems after the government failed to pay them for the work.

The Ministry of Rural and Urban Development called an urgent meeting on Friday to discuss outstanding payments due to the company. Gouws said yesterday that they had not received any feedback from the ministry and that they were looking at alternative options to raise money.

Although selling the vehicles will enable the company to pay the outstanding wages, Gouws said it would not be enough to cover all its outstanding debt.

“The amount we need to pay workers and subcontractors is about N$200 000, but we also owe other people and suppliers money. How do you decide who should be paid first?” said Gouws.

A spokesperson for the workers, Gerson Kandjeje, said they had already approached the police, the Erongo regional council and the ministry for assistance.

“No one could help us and we did not have any other choice but to come here with threats. We are tired of waiting, we are hungry and we have no money to care for our families. What must we do,” he said.

On Friday, the workers agreed to leave the construction site and to wait until the vehicles are sold so that they could get their pay. A group of workers however went to the Mondesa police station where they made further demands for their money to be paid.

The ministry''s permanent secretary, Nghidinua Daniel, was not available for comment this week and all calls were referred to Don Kondunda in the ministry''s department of mass housing. There was no answer at Kondunda''s office on Monday morning, but a message was left with his secretary on Monday afternoon.

JESSICA BOTES

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