Mass houses not burnt-workers “confiscate” boss’s car

After tense negotiations the angry construction workers of the Delta Group, who threatened to burn down the mass houses they built on the north-eastern outskirts of Swakopmund, “confiscated” their bosses car as surety. The workers demand their wages, which they allegedly have not received since August this year.

The Delta Group was awarded a tender to construct about 400 houses under Mass Housing Development Programme (MHDP) in Swakopmund. According to Delta Group managing director Koos Gouws, construction was halted about a month ago, after he was unable to pay the workers. “I feel sorry for the workers, but what must I do if I don’t have any money,” he said on Friday at the scene.
According to one of the workers, Gerson Kandjeje, the workers have attempted to resolve the situation at various avenues, having contacted the labour commissioner, the constituency councillor and the governor of the region. “We just want our money. We cannot pay our rent anymore or the school fees of our children. “They (Delta Group) says it cannot pay us, because Government has not paid them yet. But that is not our problem. We worked and want our money,” he said.
Gouws arrived at the site in his BMW 4×4 vehicle, which he left behind as surety that he would pay their wages. The workers demanded to sell the vehicle and “clamped” it at the site using bricks to prevent Gouws from leaving in it again. “I owe a lot of people a lot of money. Who should I pay first once I do sell the vehicle,” he asked. Gouws added that he is waiting for Government to pay him for work done and once he receives the money will he be in a position to not only pay the workers, but other debtors as well.
Gouws did not want to say how much government owes him, but stated that he owes the workers and contractors about N$200 000. “Even if I sell two cars it won’t be enough,” Gouws said. He added that he is “only one month behind” on salaries for the workers though. Delta Group directly employs 59 people. “We know about government’s problem to pay. There are indications that we must continue with the project in future,” he said.
To date the Delta Group is busy building 43 houses. Many of those are about 90% done, Gouws said. The aggrieved workers initially threatened to burn down the houses on Friday and had already started packing flammable material on the doorsteps of some. The situation was diffused by members of the police as well as employees of a security company.

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