7 January 2013

Namibian Seeking Justice in Tanzania for Job Related Injuries

NAMIBIAN citizen Anton Kotze is fighting a civil claim and labour dispute in a Tanzanian court against an international drilling company after sustaining a debilitating back injury while working for Major Drilling Tanzania Limited in 2009.

Kotze, an engineer by profession, was injured on the job while lifting pumps of more than 75 kilogrammes.

He was then in the employ of Major Drilling that had a contract at Bulyankulu Mine which was operated by Africa Black Gold of Tanzania.

Kotze said before the injury, he called on the safety officer of the drilling company to inform him that the work was dangerous and the space within which he had to work was too small.

He said the safety officer told him to "take five" and continue with the work because the job needed to be completed.

"I did my work because I was scared to lose my job and also there were so many people here one day, gone the next," Kotze recalled.

After the injury, Kotze said he received medication from the mine doctor, and was booked off for the day.

Afterwards, he returned to the Mwanza head office of Major Drilling, where he was only able to carry on working at a much reduced pace because of the injury.

He said on several occasions he had gone to a health centre, on one occasion accompanied by the company safety officer, for injections, while physical pain became "unbearable" and numbness started to take hold of his legs.

To his surprise, Kotze received a retrenchment letter in February 2010 from the company after it became clear that his condition was deteriorating, and was told that he had to return to Namibia.

This was despite the insistence of a medical doctor who advised that Kotze was not fit to travel long distances.

Before they were sent back to Namibia, Kotze said the company treated him and his wife with no respect, and left them to fend for themselves.

"We even struggled to get enough food for ourselves those five days [before they were to fly back to Namibia]. They took away our communication and transport, and my wife then had to walk long distances for us to get the necessary essentials we needed," Kotze said.

On the day of their flight back to Namibia on March 2 2010, Kotze said they were dropped off at the airport by the company which provided them with no support or communication.

His wife had to arrange a wheelchair at the airport for Kotze, who by then had difficulty standing up for protracted periods because of the unbearable back pain.

At home, doctors wanted to operate on Kotze's back, but the couple did not have enough money for the operation.

Kotze said it took the drilling company six months to pay out some compensation, during which time his condition had vastly deteriorated as he now was reliant on crutches to get around.

Thereafter, the company started paying him a monthly salary with a promise that it would continue paying him out for two years.

"We were then already behind six months on all our bills and monthly payments. They did pay my salary for two years in which time we also saved money and after one year, we had enough to go for the operation," Kotze said.

However, he said the company continuously declined paying medical coverage.

Kotze's legal representative in Tanzania, Daniel Welwel, said Kotze incurred expenses for paying to be treated for work related ailments. The claim is for US$70 095,41 (about N$600 000).

Kotze is also claiming compensation for future losses of income.

The case was again postponed until March this year.

Major Drilling International has not given any feedback to questions sent to them despite reasonable time given for a response.

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