CLOSE to 20 workers at Henties Bay are likely to go hungry over the holiday season as a result of the tug-of-war between their employer and the contracting company which is building 15 houses belonging to the Town Council of Henties Bay.

The Town Council of Henties Bay allocated land for Bay Construction to build close to 50 houses at the coastal town. Consequently Bay Construction contracted a joint venture of IFF Investments/Excellent Renovations to do the actual work of building 15 houses at the town’s Extension 7.

With five houses of phase one completed the contractors are at each others’ throats with accusations  of breach of contractual terms by both sides. “We have gone for four months without being paid,” one of the affected workers told Omutumwa. “And I suspect something fishy. These people are playing some tricks just so that we may go away from this job without having been paid. Some people have already been chased away from this project without having been paid a cent.”

When contacted for comment Mr Ricardo Cooper the manager of IFF Investments said the fault lies with the Bay Construction. “They have taken me for a ride from the beginning. They want to stop the contract, get new guys and give them nice promises. I have spoken with my workers to be patient. I have also spoken with our lawyer, who said we must not do anything for now.”

Mr Cooper said the agreement was initially for the Bay Construction to pay up by 16 December. “I spent everything for the material and labour from my pocket. The municipality gave them the land for free. The project is worth 5 million, although one million was left over. But now they are not eager to pay us in December. I was not aware how these people operate.”

When contacted for comment Mr Elvin Naidoo the manager of Bay Construction blamed Mr Cooper for failure to live up to the terms of the contract. “The contract is quite clear. They failed to deliver. We engaged with them in good faith. But actually this situation is a result of when people enter into a contract when they don’t have capacity to pay their workers and deliver according to the terms of the contract.”

Mr Naidoo further told Omutumwa that his company is taking legal steps in the matter. “They are refusing to give us the keys to the 5 houses which have been completed.”

Mr Cooper said in response that he was reluctant to hand over the keys to the completed houses without him having been paid for the work done. He also said: “If they say we breached the terms of the contract, what about them? They breached the contract also many times. So who is the guilty one?”

The work has stopped now for two weeks, with Mr Naidoo maintaining that he will terminate the contract he has with Mr Cooper so that a new subcontractor will take over the project. Some of the workers of Mr Cooper have been looking for the chief executive officer of Henties Bay Town Council but the town’s top management was said to be at a workshop.

Some of the workers who went back home to Walvis Bay after the work in Henties Bay came to a standstill went to the offices of Bay Construction demanding their money but the police was called in to diffuse the tense situation. As a result the workers are in limbo and do not know how they will survive the festive season.

Omutumwa will keep following up on the developments in this scandal.

Caption: Some of the houses in dispute.