Katima Mulilo — The prospect resumption of operations of the state-owned Zambezi Waterfront and Tourism Park (ZWTP) remains as bleak as it has been over the past three years when it was temporarily closed down by government, following allegations of mismanagement.
Seventeen retained staff have complained they have not received their monthly salaries for the past two months. These staff are retained to help with the maintenance of facilities after the closure in 2016 of the biggest tourism project in the Zambezi which saw almost 60 employees left jobless.
According to employees who spoke to this reporter on anonymity conditions for fear of victimisation, they normally receive their salaries on the 25th of every month, but for the past months they have not received a penny and enquiries from the board members have yielded fruitless results.
"How are we supposed to be helping maintain the facilities if we have not received our salaries for months? We are willing to work but we need to be paid as we have families to feed," stated one of the affected employees.
This reporter understands the 17 employees who were returned were initially employed on six-month renewable contracts, while benefits they use to receive which included allowances, pension fund and medical aid, were stripped off.
However, their last contracts expired in February 2018, and they are yet to be renewed as workers continue to work in fear - without job security. Employees also say while they remained on the previous salary scale without benefits, they have not received any increment in the past three years.
At the time of the closure, government invested over N$200 million in the development of the first phase, which included site clearing, bulk earthworks, engineering, infrastructure, construction of the administration building, 15 bungalows and camping sites, conference facilities, and walkways on a piece of prime riverside land measuring approximately 22 hectares.
The ZWTP's last budget was N$20 million which was allocated during the 2015/2016 financial year, and this reporter was informed that part of that money was the one earmarked to help with maintenance of the facilities, but it has already reportedly depleted.
This reporter was further informed the last amount the environment and tourism ministry gave to the waterfront was N$100 000, which the employees say was only sufficient for a one month's salary excluding payments to the ZWTP service providers.
Contacted for comments, ZWTP board chairperson Esther Kali referred all the questions to the Ministry of Environment and Tourism under whose ambit the waterfront falls. Approached for comment the spokesperson of the environment ministry Romeo Muyunda confirmed they are aware of the situation and they are working around the clock to find an amicable solution.
"We received the request from the board last month. We have been trying to address that request because we don't have the requested amount, we are looking at various sources where we can get it so that we give it to the waterfront. Not only for salaries but also to pay for other utilities," he said.
He also stated that the ministry "understands the predicament of the staff members and it is working very hard to ensure that their plight is met". Muyunda was also confident that the funds might be ready as early as next week.