By Francis Mukuzunga WINDHOEK Security guards contracted by VO Security at the Windhoek Show currently underway in the city, have accused their company management of insensitivity and inhumane treatment during their course of duty. VO Security Services has been contracted by the Windhoek Show Society (WSS) to provide security mainly at car parks, entrances and stands within the showgrounds. Most of the guards work for the company on a permanent basis or are hired for the eight days that the show is running, and more than 100 security guards have been employed this year. The security company, which had hitherto provided such services at the show consecutively for many years, is understood to be under the ownership of Derick van Niekerk, who is also believed to have some interests in the running of the WSS. When New Era visited the showgrounds yesterday and spoke to some of the guards on duty, they all requested anonymity due to the sensitive nature of their plight. However, most of them said they were being asked to work for 12 hours a day and were given poor food. In addition, the guards say, they are being paid a paltry N$36 per shift. New Era can also reveal that the food, comprising mostly boiled macaroni, mince and pap all mixed together, looks like pet food or leftovers and is not fit for human consumption but should rather be used as pet food. Some of the guards complained of stomach pains after eating the food. New Era was also told that some guards had been relieved of their duties when they complained to Van Niekerk about the issue. In an effort to seek further clarification, New Era called the VO Security offices yesterday afternoon and was told that the owner of the company was not in. However, the PA to Van Niekerk, who could not reveal her name, told New Era that there was no need for the guards to complain as they were hired and paid on an hourly basis. Asked for further clarification, the secretary referred all questions to the managing director. Contacted yesterday, Van Niekerk told New Era that he was not in a position to comment unless he had the names of the guards who had supplied the information. "If it's about the food and the contracts, I'm sorry I cannot comment unless I have the names, dates and times and what type of food they had. You are free to come to my office and inspect the food bill I have incurred. I have spent over N$28ÃƒÆ’Ã†'Ãƒâ€ 'ÃƒÆ’ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒ...ÃƒÆ’Ã†''Ã…Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â 000 on food alone," he said before hanging up. Meanwhile, small-to-medium enterprises (SME) stand-holders at the show are complaining of unfair treatment by the show organizers in terms of allocation of stands for selling their wares. In a snap survey yesterday, New Era learnt that the SME traders, who had initially registered to sell art and craft items in the SME Plaza situated behind the Snake Park and on the periphery of the showgrounds, had actually moved out of the tent to sell their wares near the entertainment grounds "where the people are," as they said. However, business was not so brisk there, they said, as no one was willing to buy their African art and craft. "The Windhoek Show has really been a disaster," said one craft vendor who could not be named for fear of further conflict with the organizers. "We have now resorted to selling Chinese products such as toys, glasses and other smaller items just to recoup our costs." The vendor said sales at the Windhoek Show were far below those at the Ongwediva and Gobabis shows held last month which he described as "very profitable." Other SMEs also complained that the Show Society charged them N$2ÃƒÆ’Ã†'Ãƒâ€ 'ÃƒÆ’ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒ...ÃƒÆ’Ã†''Ã…Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â 000 per stand - the same as any other exhibitors occupying larger and more convenient stalls, and they wanted to know why. "I even had to buy a tent for a further N$500 to cover my stand, and this is definitely the last time I am going to participate in such shows.," said one participant. "It's like you have committed a crime," said another who accused the organizers of turning a blind eye to their plight. New Era also spoke to a stand-holder at Namibian Creative Woods, just opposite the area where the SME traders are situated, and found that the company had also paid N$2ÃƒÆ’Ã†'Ãƒâ€ 'ÃƒÆ’ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒ...ÃƒÆ’Ã†''Ã…Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â 000 for the stand which can accommodate at least six individual SME stalls. However, even he complained about loss of business this year. "The prices for a stand went up by N$1ÃƒÆ’Ã†'Ãƒâ€ 'ÃƒÆ’ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒ...ÃƒÆ’Ã†''Ã…Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â 000 from last year, and many traditional exhibitors just simply did not turn up this year," he said. "I think many people did not come because of the weather but, more than that, I think the show organizers are charging too much at the gates, and even for parking," said another exhibitor. New Era tried unsuccessfully - up to yesterday evening - to get fresh comment from the Show's managing director, Harald Schmidt, on these and other issues. However, in a statement released to the media for the period up to Monday, the show organizers acknowledged that the cold spell had played its part in the dwindling number of visitors to the show this year. The show organizers said in a statement: "The locality of the newly established SME Plaza did not receive acceptance from the exhibitors and, after consultation, the dissatisfied informal traders were relocated on Saturday morning to a mutually agreed area. The good business that flowed from the number of visitors on Saturday and Sunday lifted the sullen mood to make room for a vibrant and positive atmosphere."
2006-10-06 00:00:00 11 years ago