Andrew Kathindi

The Prime Minister, Saara Kuugongelwa has been dragged into the on-going Shoprite saga after Namibia Food and Allied Workers Union (NAFAU) leadership has been in consultation with the Prime Minister over the matter, Windhoek Observer can reveal

According to sources close to the matter, the NAFAU leadership have been in meetings over the last two days with the Prime Minister along with the Minister of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Creation Utoni Nujoma, to try and resolve the matter.

The development forced the Shoprite representative and NAFAU to meet on Thursday 14 January at the office of the Labour Commissioner. Pressure is mounting for a resolution to the long lasting and emotional labour dispute.

This comes as Shoprite has lodged an urgent application against NAFAU and the workers who have been on strike since December. This is a development confirmed by NAFAU’s legal representative.

Shoprite has also filed a notice of appeal against the judgement delivered on 8 January by Justice Shafimana Ueitele in which Shoprite was ordered to not hire seasonal employees to take over the work of employees that are on strike. The appeal is set to be heard in court on Monday 18 January.

“Shoprite is hereby interdicted and ordered not to require, permit or allow any of the so-called seasonal staff or ‘fixed term’ employees, hired during December 2020, and any other of its employees (including managerial or trainee manager employees) to do the work of an employee who embarked on strike as from 23 December 2020 onwards for the duration of the strike,” Justice Ueitele had ordered.

Shoprite’s appeal comes as NAFAU Secretary General Jacob Penda had yesterday (Wednesday) accused the retail group of not complying with terms of a High Court judgement issued last week.

“Shoprite is respecting no one in this country. Firstly, we signed the rules of the strike at the Office of the Labour Commission which they violated as from the 14 December, until today. And after they got the court order they still contravened it.”

He added, “If the court order says don’t use these people hired during this time or managers to do the work of striking employees, and they’re doing that, what do you expect from the nation and the communities?”

Quizzed on whether Shoprite had contravened the terms of the court judgement, Shoprite’s Divisional HR Manager in Namibia, Karen Smith said, “It is an accepted retail practice to employ seasonal workers during peak periods, including the festive season, back to school, Easter and other peak times throughout the year.”

She added, “It is a priority for the Shoprite Group to resolve the matter through the appropriate channels and in the interest of all parties. The Group is doing everything in its power to protect jobs, especially during the global pandemic and the dire economic impact thereof.”

According to media reports, the Shoprite Group has over 22 Shoprite stores, eight Checkers stores and 26 USave outlets in Namibia.