Maria Hamutenya

Namibian political parties continue to shy away from the on-going labour dispute pitting South African retail giant, Shoprite, against its Namibian workers.

The labour dispute has been dragging for years, and the current strike which started last December last year, have now spilled over into the High Court.

The Popular Democratic Movement (PDM), the country’s official opposition party was diplomatic in its position on the matter, calling on the parties to sit down and reach a mutually beneficial agreement.

“PDM wants to put it on record that any loss of jobs resulting from a continued stalemate between NAFAU (Namibia Food and Allied Workers Union) and Shoprite will be regrettable,” said PDM’s Secretary-General Manuel Ngaringombe.

“A protracted strike does not benefit anyone. The country needs to protect jobs.”

Independent Patriot for Change Spokesperson, Imms Nashinge, said the dispute between the retailer and its workers had nothing to do with the party and thus it will not involve itself.

“What’s happening with Shoprite and its workers has nothing to do with the party,that is why we are not getting involved but are however in solidarity with the worker’s strike,” he said.

The Landless People’s Movement (LPM) said the party was in the process of finding a solution to the dispute without providing details.

“We are a Marxist organisation and we are concerned about these workers, we are trying to find an effective solution to what is happening with the workers, so until we are done we will include the media,” said LPM’s Assistant National Spokesperson, Joyce Muzengua.

“LPM is among the first political parties to strike against Shoprite’s low wages towards their employees in December. We want all workers including the temporary workers to also earn a better wage than what they are currently receiving.”

Shoprite employees went on strike on 23 December demanding a pay increment and better working conditions.

However, according to media reports, the company has stuck to its proposal of giving workers between 5-10 percent wage increment without other benefits such as housing and transport allowance.

“The ten percent increment sounds like it’s a lot but it is not, especially because it does not include transport and house allowance, Windhoek is very expensive that is why we want the employees to earn at least N$ 3000 per month,” said Muzengua.

The ruling SWAPO Party Youth League Secretary, Ephraim Nekongo, was quoted in the local media saying the party will not intervene in the ongoing labour stand-off between Shoprite and its workers as it had nothing to do with it.

This comes as Shoprite this week sent out letters to staff stating that workers should abandon their participation in the strike called by NAFAU and that further participation could lead to dismissal.

NAFAU Deputy Secretary-General, Absalom Wilhelma, condemned the letter, which he said is undermining the rights of the workers.

“Employers have no right to dictate anyone from affiliating to any union, we are condemning it and therefore have sent a letter to the employers that state that the letter is condemning worker’s rights”, said Wilhelma

The development comes as the Shoprite Group of Companies has been accused of having gone against a Labour Court ruling which ordered the company to stop hiring employees to do the work of currently striking workers.