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Manwu, businesses concerned by incomplete Katima road

The Metal and Allied Namibia Workers’ Union (Manwu) has raised concern over the potential negative impact the delay in the completion of Lifasi Street in Katima Mulilo’s central business district would have on the workers, as it has already affected their salary negotiations.

This comes after Manwu and Build-It Katima Mulilo agreed on a 5% salary increment for 47 workers, effective 31 July.

Ashy Trading CC was awarded the N$10-million tender for the construction of a 900-metre portion of the road.

The work, which is in two phases, involves the development of the stretch from the beginning of Lifasi to CKP Stationers to double lanes on both sides, while from CKP Stationers to the end of Kabajani Street it will be a normal two-lane road, started last year in November.

The surfaces are being changed to interlocks and will also include a much-needed storm drainage system.

The northern regional coordinator of Manwu, Richard Musohwa, who spoke to The Namibian, said initially they were supposed to negotiate a 10% salary increment.

However, the management argued that they cannot afford it because they have not been doing much business since the road construction started.

“The road being constructed in the central business district was supposed to be completed within three months.

This has reduced our negotiations. The town council must work fast to complete the road because other employers in this line are talking about retrenchments as they’re running at a loss,” he said.

The business owners in the area said the Katima Mulilo Town Council did not do proper consultations with them when they started the plan to construct the road, nor were they consulted on the progress.

“The construction of this road is killing us, because our meat is rotting in the coolers as there are no customers due to lack of traffic flow.

The whole of last week, the construction workers only came and sat until knock-off time, because apparently there was no material and they could not continue.

We’re on the verge of closing down as we are a small business that is running at a huge loss,” said Beauty Sibalatani, a supervisor at a butchery on Lifasi Road.

The manager at Metro Wholesale, Peter Besser, said December was a disaster for their branch sales as it is the peak season and the customers could not access the shop as the construction had just started.

“If proper consultations were done, we could have come to an agreement that they wouldn’t start the construction in December, because it’s peak season.

We were informed that they would’ve finished in April. However, it’s not happening.

We’d a meeting with the town council, who gave us a guarantee that the road would be completed in June, but we’re nearing the end of July with no progress at all.

Our customers are having transportation challenges whenever they come shopping here. As a result, they’ve decided to shop elsewhere,” he said.

Street vendors, who are equally affected by this delay, have pleaded with the town council to fast-track the construction.

“If big businesses are struggling to make ends meet, what more about us who already have no footing? The town council must come to our rescue, because our children are hungry.

We used to make at least N$1 000 a week, but now we go home with nothing,” said Agnes Sibela, one of the affected street vendors.

Efforts to get comment from the Katima Mulilo Town Council’s chief executive officer, Raphael Liswaniso, were unsuccessful, as he has not answered questions sent to him.