by Okeri Ngatjiheue

TRUCK drivers across the country have complained about the state of the facilities where they are kept for their mandatory 14-day quarantine.

Damien Mabengano, deputy director of transportation regulations in the Ministry of Works and Transport, yesterday at the Covid-19 communication centre in Windhoek said they have done an assessment of the facilities and noted some do not meet the required standards.

Adherence to regulations in the transport sector was discussed.

“They just call it a quarantine facility, but the things that are happening there . . . the conditions are not conducive and they (drivers) have complained about that,” Mabengano said.

He said these conditions are among the reasons drivers provide for leaving the facilities.

Truckers have also complained about low salaries, yet they are classified as essential services and have to drive through countries with a high incidence of Covid-19, he said.

“The risk part is not accommodated in their salaries. Some have indicated they suffer from medical conditions, and are taking medication for high blood pressure and diabetes. When they are at the facility and their medication runs out, it is difficult for them to get more supplies. Some operators do not provide for this.”

Mabengano said the labour relationship between drivers and their employers are yet to be investigated.

He denied claims that the government has refused to meet the drivers to hear their plight, noting this needs to be facilitated through the truck drivers’ associations.

He said the ministry is improving truck stops and has established wellness centres for truckers at Walvis Bay, Otjiwarongo and Katima Mulilo.

The Walvis Bay Corridor Group is working with the Ministry of Health and Social Services to provide these centres.

Mabengano said quarantine is mandatory for all drivers, and the two ministries are ensuring the facilities are in good condition.

DISCIPLINARY PROCESS

Stephan Terblanche, chief executive officer of FP du Toit Transport said the disciplinary process of the two truck drivers who allegedly escaped from quarantine in May, is ongoing.

One driver (47), who is Namibia’s 21st Covid-19 case, returned from South Africa on 8 May and was tested and quarantined at FP du Toit Transport’s truck depot at the coastal town.

Before receiving his test results, he allegedly entered the community with a colleague, but was later apprehended by the police. The company has since suspended the two truckers, Terblanche said.

He said drivers are provided with money for extra kilometres, and medical aid; are insured and belong to a pension fund, which was negotiated with their unions.

He said quarantine facilities need to be inspected, and invited members of the media to visit them.

Terblanche said the stigma around truck drivers is not fair as they play an important role in the essential supplies they deliver.

He said it is a risk because they move across borders, but are needed.

“It is important to work together and not stigmatise them. It is not easy being a truck driver,” he said, especially since they have to be quarantined as opposed to returning to their families upon arrival in the country.

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