Only after the Namibia Economic Freedom Fighters (NEFF) raised the illegal employment of some Chinese nationals boldly by entering the premises of Cheetah Cement were these nationals deported.
It is any wonder if the NEFF had not taken the bold action they did, if this matter would have come to the attention of the authorities that be, let alone if it would eventually have culminated in the deportation of the said workers? Not only this but this company is supposed to be operating under Namibian laws has been violating the very laws of its host countries without impunity. This goes against the much touted call about and for the protection of foreign investors. While as it seems these investors, besides for the flagrant exploitation of Namibian natural resources, have been and are flagrantly violating Namibian laws. Thereby basically breaching the trust which the Namibian people, through their government, which in the first place have taken such companies and foreign investors in its trust by granting them rights to the country’s natural resources through the one or other license to operate, trade and do business in the country.
This is nothing but a revealing pointer that at the end of the day workers do not have anyone else but themselves to rid themselves of the yoke of exploitation, under which most of the workers have unabatedly been subjected, despite pretenses at freedom, one of which is the freedom to mobilise themselves in unions at the work place.
Despite all these rights and freedoms, as Constitutionally guaranteed, and buttressed by the provisions of the 2000 Labour Act, the harsh reality is the continued exploitation of the workers in Namibia rendering any rights and freedoms workers may have only imaginable and theory but not in practice.
Through the lack of the inability, if not will, of those who are not only meant to protect workers’ rights and freedoms, but also ensure that the workers themselves are not only conscious of their rights and freedoms, but that such are inalienable to them they practically must and should live by them everyday of their working lives at and in their places of work.
Given the obvious blatant failure of those meant to ensure that workers are made aware of their rights and freedoms practiced, and that such are protected, not the least even by employees, and so much by the Ministry of Industrial Relations and Employment Creation and trade unions, the solidarity action by NEFF is understandable and cannot and should not be seen by any means as an illegal act as has been portrayed in the media. Simply the NEFF is feeling a void that is undeniably there. There’s no denying that the Ministry of Industrial Relations, particularly its Labour Inspectorate Division, has dismally been failing the workers, especially the farmworkers whose conditions of employment remains as backward as ever on most if not all of the farms in the country. Not to mention overall the pitiful working conditions of workers in the country.
While unions are legal in Namibia at the work place, through the so-called exclusive bargaining agents, for a greater part workers have been and remain on their own. Thus the action by NEFF, for some if not many or most of the workers in Namibia, cannot go unnoticed and must be applauded by everyone who believes in the rights and freedoms of the workers, least the Ministry of Industrial Relations.
Needless to say the employment of workers illegally by Cheetah Cement, may only be the tip of the iceberg. For workers in this company may be subjected to other unimaginable and intolerable inhuman working conditions. The reason for this company employing workers illegally cannot but be too obvious. So that these workers, illegal as they are and may or were, could not invoke their rights and freedoms. Thus practically they were employed, as may many others, at ransom in terms of their rights and freedoms under the Namibian Constitution and Labour Act. Simply this demonstrates and typifies the company’s aversion and disdain for the country’s labour laws, if not total disrespect for the workers, and their rights and freedoms.
NEFF’s action cannot be see more than act of class consciousness. Because as eminent Namibian statesman and women have been on record time and again, regarding the second phase of the struggle, which is the economic one, this cannot be left to the workers alone but all progressive social forces in Namibian must join forces in the push towards economic emancipation as part of the Namibian National Revolution.
The ultimate thereof, which is meaningful socio-economic transformation. As Yours Truly Ideologically has been postulating, this is necessary with the requisite class consciousness. Thus the actions by NEFF cannot be seen in isolation of the pertaining state of despair regarding the rights and freedoms of the workers, typified foremost by the starvation in most of the economic sectors and industries in the country with few exceptions. But also by the pitiful working conditions generally.
So the actions by NEFF are by no means small steps but a bold demonstration of class consciousness which must be welcomed and supported by all class conscious progressive forces in the country. Because Cheetah Cement is not the only culprit but the flagrant violation of workers rights and freedoms is a general state of affairs in the country that cannot be denied as much as the powers seems to have been turning a blind eye to it. If only in terms of providing a minimum wage. While Namibia given the pivotal role of workers in the liberation struggle, and the ideological posturing of some the liberation movements, should be frontrunners in terms of engineering a minimum wage in some if not most of its economic sectors, let alone even within the public service itself, the country, sadly, is not among the frontrunners, let alone in Sub-Saharan Africa, or the continent, in instrumentalising a minimum wage.
Expectedly the actions of NEFF have been greeted with disapproval as if they are intrinsic in themselves, political grandstanding, notwithstanding what NEFF actually strive for and has been striving for if its name is anything to go by. Now that the Chinese nationals have reportedly been deported, surely this cannot and must not be the end of the matter. Cheetah Cement must be investigated and consequent action taken against it as may be deem fit. NEFF has done its part it is now for the would-be labour authorities, notably the Ministry of Industrial Relations, in acting consequent so that this matter is taken to its logical conclusion. Not only with regard to Cheetah Cement, but with regard to the general pitiful state of working conditions. Instead of halfhearted meaningless and pretentious celebrations of May Day year in and year out.