Namibia: Agribusdev Workers Unpaid for Two Months

Workers of the cash-trapped Agricultural Business Development Agency (Agribusdev) based at the Orange Irrigation Project (Orip) at Aussenkehr claim they have not been paid for two months.

Workers told The Namibian the company has failed to pay them for October and November. And with the festive season so close, the workers said it was highly unlikely that they will get their December salaries.

"It is likely that we will go into Christmas without our pay," said an affected worker.

"How do they expect us to survive without a pay? We have families to feed," he added.

The state-funded agency was established to improve food security in the country, and employs close to 73 permanent workers and 50 seasonal workers at the Orip project. The worker, who refused to be named for fear of retribution, accused declined the company management of failing to manage the millions of dollars that the government pumps into the company each year.

"Agribusdev (management) are just chopping (misappropriating) our money," said a frustrated worker.

In October this year, the government planned allocating about N$35 million to the troubled state-owned agency to maintain its operations until the next planting season.

Agriculture executive director Percy Misika was quoted by The Namibian on the N$35 million lifeline as saying "we told them (Agribusdev management) to provide us quotations showing the actual figures required, because our fear is that if we transfer the money to them, it will go to salaries, and there will be no production.

Another worker said that because of unpaid salaries, most workers who had bought furniture and other goods on hire purchase had them repossessed, while their insurance policies had lapsed due to non-payment of monthly premiums.

According to him, workers were better off in terms of receiving their salaries on time, and conditions under which they work were more conducive when the state-owned vineyards at Orip were being run by foreign company, Cool Fresh Namibia .

He highlighted that the agency was even failing to provide its workers with protective gear.

"Namibians running Agribusdev are killing their fellow citizens," he fumed. The worker said even the Namibia Farm Workers Union (Nafwu) has failed workers in getting their salaries, adding workers have also sought help from the //Kharas governor's office and Office of the President over unpaid salaries without success.

Attempts to get comment from the agency's managing director, Petrus Uugwanga, yesterday proved futile as his cellphone went unanswered.

He also failed to reply to questions sent to him via text message to his cellphone at the time of going to press.

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