SWAKOPMUND - Eagle Night Watch is facing allegations that it has abandoned some of its guards who were injured in a motor-vehicle accident in June while on their way from the Husab mine, where the security company provides services.
The guards have reportedly been left to fend for themselves while nursing their injuries for the past two months. The accident occurred on 19 June, resulting in 17 people being injured when an Iveco bus belonging to the company collided with another vehicle while transporting the guards from the mine.
At least three employees, who have been unable to return to work, claim they have not received any salaries or financial assistance from the company for two months now, despite being injured at work.
One of the injured, Llewellyn Mouton, is confined to his bed, but chose not to speak to New Era to focus on his recovery.
Security guards in Namibia typically earn about N$3 500, a salary which often traps them in a cycle of poverty.
Marius Urikhob, who broke his left leg in the accident, said he has not been paid since the incident. “It’s been two months that I have not been paid, and I am about to be evicted from my rental accommodation. According to the company, our policy is ‘no work, no pay,” Urikhob, who uses crutches to move around, said last Tuesday.
He expressed his disappointment that no assistance has been rendered by the company, and that he cannot even afford a simple painkiller. Urikhob said he was told by the company that he would be paid by the Social Security Commission (SSC) and the Motor-Vehicle Accident (MVA) Fund.
“I went to the SSC, and to my shock, I am not on their system, despite having contributions deducted every month. Above all, they should have rendered assistance to us while we are waiting for the so-called payments, as we know some processes are lengthy,” Urikhob continued.
Another employee, Fabiola Kativa, who has been with the company for seven years, also voiced her frustration, stating that she was injured in the same accident and has developed blood clots in one leg, requiring an operation. “My legs are still not okay, and I can’t wear safety boots anymore due to the pain,” she stated.
It is understood that the company is dragging its feet in processing the paperwork that would allow the employees to get assistance from the MVA Fund.
The guards are likewise calling for better wages and benefits. Kativa said they would be in a better position to care for themselves if the company paid them better wages with benefits. “My boss sells meat to us, and the price of the meat increases every year, but our salaries remain the same every year. How fair is it that he knows his meat prices need to increase to cover the costs involved, but this is not applicable to salaries? Currently, the impression out there is that we have benefits such as medical aid, social security, housing and pension, which is not true,” she emphasised.
Kativa added that their hourly rate has also not been adjusted by the company, despite it being gazetted in 2017 by the government.
Another employee, who only identified herself as Marsha, said her affirmative action (AA) form stipulates that she receives medical aid and a housing allowance, which is not the case. “I got the AA form, showing that I receive medical aid, a housing allowance as well as other benefits, which is untrue. My salary is not even close to what is reflected on it. The problem that we have is that the company has not given us any benefits, and the accident only exposed how vulnerable we are. We have been exploited to enrich the company,” she said.
In their pursuit of justice and fair treatment, the security guards and Affirmative Repositioning movement activist Tuhafeni Petrus are in consultations with the Employment Equity Commissioner to address the challenges.
“We have been having challenges with this security company. We drew their affirmative action report, and realised that employees are indeed permanent and apparently have medical, transport and food allowances. But it does not correlate with what they are getting at the end of the day,” Petrus said.
He noted that the accident highlighted that the company only cares about the employees when they are at work. “We are hoping to address these issues, and bring changes in the working conditions of security guards. They deserve way better, as these contracts are worth millions at the end of the day,” he said.
The security company, through their labour consultant Izaan Prinsloo, however, denied the allegations of the guards. She said they have been dedicated to creating jobs and uplifting Namibians over the past 27 years. The assertion that they haven’t been paying the gazetted hourly rate since 2017, is thus unfounded. This is despite the payslips of some security personnel clearly showing that they are getting paid N$10 per hour.
As for the social security and PAYE deductions, she stated that no specific cases have been brought to the company.
“If there are discrepancies with NamRA and Social Security, we are not aware of that. These will be investigated and addressed. As for the accident-related concerns, we are saddened and have always strived to support our staff, especially in times of adversity. Eagle Night Watch Security are actively exploring ways to assist our employees further in their recovery process,” the labour consultant stated. She added that the documents indicating the provision of benefits in terms of the Affirmative Action report are correct, and that they will provide contextual clarification to the ministry, as it is evident that the contents thereof were maliciously misconstrued.
“A meeting indeed took place with government stakeholders, and we consider it to have been an insightful and productive discussion, albeit deeply regrettable that individuals have chosen to level serious and unfounded accusations against Eagle Night Watch Security. Nevertheless, we gave our commitment to investigate and ensure any concerns are addressed well in time of the agreed deadline,” Prinsloo stated.