WALVIS BAY – Cross border truck drivers at Walvis Bay feel they are subjected to inhumane conditions at the temporary truck port at Walvis Bay.
They say they are forced to go at least two weeks without taking a bath and use empty bottles or the nearby bushes to relieve themselves. On top of that, they are forced to pay N$20 for a loaf of bread, despite being a stone’s throw away from the Dunes Mall.
The temporary truck port was set up in May last year to serve as a quarantine or isolation facility for truck drivers to contain the spread of Covid-19 when the town was deemed the hotspot of the virus at the time.
The truck port had a mobile clinic for screening and testing drivers, water and electricity, skip bins as well as showers and toilets.
Yotam Manda (43), a truck driver from Zambia, on Thursday told New Era all these were removed at the beginning of this year and now the conditions are unbearable.
“This is really a ticking timebomb for all sorts of diseases. There is neither running water nor bathroom facilities. We cannot go to a shop to get necessities, as we are scared of being jailed or fined,” he said. Manda explained that although they are not in quarantine, the truckers are still subjected to park at the temporary truck port, as they are not allowed to move around with their trucks.
“Some of us have been warned on several occasions that we will be fined or even arrested if we are found in town. This means we cannot go and buy food because we might get arrested,” he lamented. As a result, they are forced to pay up to N$20 for a loaf of bread from someone who comes to them to sell necessities. Sililo Mutalo from DRC also told New Era that he last showered two weeks ago and has been forced to fetch water at night from the next-door truck port to at least wash his face.
“Imagine, we bring fuel and food to shops and service stations but we are not allowed to enter or buy from them,” Mutalo explained. Namibian truck driver Richard Ortner (51) said the treatment they get at Walvis Bay is an embarrassment, compared to other border posts and neighbouring countries. “We are allowed to move freely with our trucks in other countries once they test us for Covid-19. It is only here that we have been subjected to such inhumane treatment,” he said. Erongo Health Director Anna Jonas on Friday said they are aware of the situation and have already engaged stakeholders to address the situation. “We understand that the upkeep was too costly for the temporary truck port. We, on our part, paid for various amenities, although this is not part of our mandate,” she said.
Jonas added that they were paying about N$150 000 per month to rent showers as well as providing electricity and water to the facility.
Erongo governor Neville Andre also indicated he will call a meeting this week with stakeholders such as Namport, Walvis Bay municipality, Walvis Bay Corridor Group and the police to address the situation.