Uis mine workers’ living conditions annoys council

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Uis mine workers’ living conditions annoys council

SWAKOPMUND – Erongo Regional Council chairperson Benita Imbamba has rapped both Xinfeng Investment and Longfire Investment over unfair labour practices and squalid living conditions they have subjected mine employees to. 

A dismayed Imbamba, who visited the mine site on Friday, informed New Era there has been no improvement despite previous assurances by the companies to the parliamentary standing committee during a visit in May this year. 

The abhorrent living conditions were also witnessed by members of the standing committee on natural resources and journalists during the visit. 

Imbamba was joined in her condemnation by Mine Workers Union (MUN) secretary for the western region Filleppus Ampweya, who also expressed extreme shock during their visit to the two partners mining operation outside Uis. 

They witnessed first-hand the deplorable living and employment conditions of workers at the mine.

Imbamba expressed frustration, saying nothing has been done to improve the living conditions of the workers, despite promises by the companies.

According to her, it is not comprehensible how Namibians are subjected to squalid living conditions, while non-Namibians live in luxury.

She also took issue with labour inspectors in the region, saying they should be called to answer why this situation has been allowed to continue.

“We are not going to allow this to continue. I will leave no stone unturned and will take this up with the highest authority. I will not remain silent any longer,” an irate Imbamba fumed. 

During that visit, up to four employees were cramped into tiny corrugated zinc shacks furnished with bunk beds and small windows that barely allow for sufficient ventilation. 

The employees are allegedly forced to cook meals inside these cramped quarters while their bathrooms have no privacy.




Animal farm

In stark contrast, Chinese nationals, also employed by the two partners, reside in comfortable panel rooms, with two individuals sharing a room. These rooms are equipped with air conditioning, decent kitchen facilities and bathrooms. 

The glaring disparity in living conditions also drew disappointment from the parliamentarians, who labelled the situation as a form of intra-racial oppression.

During the visit, Likulano Januarie, owner of Long Fire, a partner of the controversial Xinfeng, acknowledged the deplorable facilities for Namibian workers. 

Januarie gave an assurance that the company was working to address the issue: “Yes, we will definitely rectify the issue as our operations are also growing.”


Meanwhile, some employees this week told New Era that they received letters terminating their contracts in September.

“This letter serves as a 30-day notice that your six-month contract, which started on 20 March, will be ending on 20 September. The reason for ending the employment contract is due to section 32 of the Labour Act 11 of 2007 — automatic termination of contract of employment,” part of the notice issued on Monday reads.

Imbamba believes the workers were being victimised by the companies, as the notices came two days after their visit to the mine.

“They are recruiting people on six-months contracts, but we will not allow them to. They will get it right or pack up and move,” she said.


Adding his voice, Ampweya also confirmed the looming job losses, stating that at least 32 employees received such letters from Longfire Investment. Ampweya emphasised that MUN achieved 51% membership among the employees, enabling the union to represent them during this unsettling process.

MUN, he said, deems the termination, compounded by poor working conditions, unethical as it targets only Namibians.

In a letter seen by New Era, Ampweya questioned the legality of the termination of employment. 

He highlighted that the company had not referenced the complete section 34 of the Labour Act, which pertains to dismissals. 

“It appears that your client did not find it apt it quotes the provisions of Section 34 of the Namibian Labour Act. While your client has dismally failed to provide any fair reason for the planned dismissals, it has consequently failed and/or denied MUN an opportunity to engage on the intended dismissals, reasons for reduction in the workforce, and perhaps, very importantly, the modus operandi and criteria used to identify the 34 employees out of the 143 employees. This excludes the 22 Chinese nationals currently under the employ of your client,” Ampweya’s letter to the legal representative of Longfire states.

He then demanded the company initiates negotiations with full compliance of the prerequisites in section 34 on or before 4 September and directly engage the union to explore alternatives to the dismissals and minimize the impact on the affected workers.


Responding to questions yesterday, Xinfeng said it is committed to prioritising the well-being and safety of its employees, while also ensuring optimal working conditions in all aspects of its operations. 

Xinfeng has implemented comprehensive measures to create a secure and productive work environment, the company stated. 

On the health and safety front, it said: “The company understands that the mining industry can present inherent risks, and thus has developed a robust framework to mitigate potential hazards. This includes regular safety training sessions, risk assessment procedures, and the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) to all employees. 

“By fostering a culture of vigilance and accountability, the mine aims to achieve accident-free operations and protect the physical well-being of its workforce. To this end, no accident or incident has been recorded at our mine.”

Xinfeng continued: “Xinfeng Investments wish to reiterate that our employees are our most valuable asset, and their well-being is of paramount importance. We are committed to nurturing a positive work culture that encourages growth, development and a sense of belonging for everyone working at Xinfeng operated mines within Namibia.”