Namibia Correctional Services human resources (HR) department staff at their Windhoek head office complain that they have to clean toilets in their suits. Their bosses are allegedly unbothered.
Workers from the HR department narrated that the entire building has been without cleaners since last year. It is said that the cleaners were taken to training to become uniformed members.
Because of the absence of cleaners, the HR staff are made to clean their own space.
With Covid-19 cases hitting workplaces countrywide, disinfecting and cleaning offices regularly has become the norm. This, however, is not the case at the NCS head office.
Sources in the department, who spoke under anonymity in fear of victimisation, narrated how they continue working in a congested, poorly ventilated space shared by 14 people.
“We proposed to work in shifts since we are a lot in the office,” said one of the workers.
The worker added a submission, which was written in the first week of the month, has still not been signed or approved. This was after a directive from the Ministry of Home Affairs, Immigration, Safety and Security’s executive director’s office was sent out to instruct departments to declutter offices and fumigate regularly.
The workers said they attached this to their proposal, but it was removed.
“We were told, we don’t act on the ED’s directives!”
The commissioner general, who is supposed to sign the document to authorise shifts, is currently out of the office, as his driver is said to have tested positive.
When contacted for clarification, commissioner general Raphael Hamunyela said: “Ask them to explain, I don’t know.”
With a number of cases having been confirmed in the building, some departments have taken matters into their own hands by dividing themselves. To add insult to injury, the building went without water for three days. The offices were closed and workers were let go.
Commissioner Sam Shaalulange, head of central staff, explained to New Era that the water situation was beyond their control.
“There was no water in the whole area,” he said.
“We are really worried about ourselves and our health. You are just scared because if somebody coughs we might joke, but it is really worrisome. It is affecting us psychologically because you are in a state of fear,” said the workers.
“Can you imagine now, me coming in my suit to go clean the toilet,” added another.
The same worker took offence when it was suggested that they clean because the minister was going to have a meeting in that department.
“Even if it is voluntary, my profession is not to clean toilets, even if I do it at home. This is different,” he said.
Inmates from the correctional facilities have been standing in as cleaners, but they rarely come in.
“You only see inmates when the situation is bad,” said the worker.
Shaalulange confirmed that cleaners did get practical training and are now part of the system.
“It’s not like they are gone for good,” he said.
He admitted that they have a problem getting inmates to come clean due to Covid-19, but it is a practice that has been put in place.
“It has been made categorically clear to all heads of directorates, that if at all a directorate needs cleaning services, officers from that specific directorate can arrange to fetch inmates.”
“We are working on the measures to reduce the number of staff in the office,” said Shaalulange.
Shaalulange added the shift list and approval was supposed to go out by Monday already, but due to the water situation, staff were unable to work. He stated that protocols around the regulations and guidelines are being followed.
A matter of implementation and communication is currently the bone of contention within the departments, as Shaalulange says that managers know about the measures that have been put in place.
After New Era requested for comment from the Correctional Services top brass, officials on Thursday signed the documents and staff were divided into shifts.