20 November 2012

Namibia: Health Minister Denies Dangerous Labour Practices

HEALTH Minister Richard Kamwi has denied allegations of unfair labour practices at the Oshakati State Hospital and an allegation that the ministry has for 40 years not permanently employed the people who spray DDT in malaria areas.

DTA MP Phillemon Moongo accused the ministry of ignoring the Labour Act, suggesting unfair treatment, victimisation, and exploitation at the hospital. Kamwi suggested that Moongo be more specific in his allegations.

Speaking in Parliament on Thursday, Kamwi said the ministry was employing 470 temporary workers to do DDT spraying in malaria regions from September to December every year. He said they were trained before spraying started.

“Clearly the services of these men and women are only needed for three months during the course of the year,” Kamwi countered.

Moongo suggested that these DDT sprayers were underpaid and only received their salaries two months after completing the exercise. He also wanted to know when their salaries would be adjusted or increased.

Kamwi denied Moongo's allegation, saying that on top of their salaries, they also received camping allowances and leave gratuities.

He said salary notches were adjusted depending on the number of years – or rather the number of months – these sprayers had worked for the ministry.

“Government salary increments or adjustments benefit all government employees including the spray operators. As per contract agreement, they are to receive their salaries timely every month. There may be some delays in payments, which may occur in one region, but that should not be generalised to be the same for all the malaria regions,” Kamwi said.

The malaria regions are Caprivi, Kavango, Ohangwena, Oshikoto, Omusati, and Oshana. Kunene and Otjozondjupa are affected to a lesser extent.

Kamwi further denied Moongo's suggestion that DDT was endangering the health of the sprayers, saying that it appeared as if Moongo was “working with the so-called environmentalists”.

“I want him to take note that both American states and Europe were infested with malaria in the 1950s and that it is DDT which eliminated, and in some of the states completely eradicated, malaria. Interestingly enough, it is some of those nationals who come to Africa and want to dictate to us to stop using DDT for public health, which is in line with WHO [World Health Organisation] guidelines,” Kamwi said.

He said the use of DDT and other organic pollutants was strictly controlled, and spray operators handling DDT underwent extensive training to protect both the environment and themselves.

“DDT chemical is not harmful and is not endangering the health of any health worker as your sources seem to allege,” Kamwi said to Moongo.

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