Utoni lashes out at NEFF antics

Tujoromajo Kasuto

The Minister of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Creation has condemned the Namibia Economic Freedom Fighters masquerading as trade unions and as modern-day saviours of Namibian workers engaging in ‘’guerrilla theatre’’ tactics disrupting business operations.

This comes after Nujoma prematurely ended a meeting where he and his senior staff had with NEFF leaders Epaphras Mukwiilongo, Longinus Iipumbu, and Michael Amushelelo on Wednesday.

The meeting was held at the Labour Ministry offices in Windhoek but came to an abrupt halt after an altercation between Amushelelo and another ministry official when Amushelelo referred to Nujoma as ‘’useless’’.

During the altercation with the minister’s assistant, Alfred Angula, Amushelelo said that the ministry is public offices and do not belong to politicians.

Ahead of this altercation, Nujoma lectured the NEFF delegation, according to a video posted on Amushelelo’s Facebook page: ‘’The Labour Act requires that any registered trade union, through the labour commissioner, has the right to represent the workers. If you have no recognition and I don’t think you have the right to represent the workers.’’

Nujoma reminded the group that Namibia is a constitutional democracy underpinned by the rule of law.

The discussion then became a dialogue with the parties not listening to each other and Nujoma remarking ‘’you have no right to go to any employer, disturbing and harassing them. You are violating the laws of the Republic of Namibia.

He told Mukwiilongo, a NEFF MP that he has taken an oath to adhere and respect the laws of Namibia, yet he is sending ‘’your so called revolutionary fighters to go and disrupt the peace in the country’’.

The NEFF delegation interjected that ‘’people are crying for them to please come and help them’’.

Asking which people, Nujoma said that the party must discipline it’s ‘’so called revolutionaries’’ who go around insulting them – ‘’they are calling us all sorts of names through the social media’’.

Amushelelo’s interjection that the minister is ‘’useless’’ led to him and Angula exchanging unpleasantries, with Nujoma asking if the group came to ‘’intimidate’’ them and calling off the meeting saying they cannot continue under such circumstances.

Before the meeting came to this premature end, Nujoma advised NEFF to register themselves as a trade union if they wish to represent workers.

‘’A trade union should not be treated by its officials as a money-making opportunity or a political stepping-stone. Trade unions must be dedicated whole-heartedly to protecting and

promoting the interests of workers, bargaining in good faith with employers, and organising unorganised workers,’’ he emphasised in a statement issued after the prematurely ended meeting.

Nujoma further emphasised that employers need to recognize that they can maximise their profits and continue to be successful if they adhere to the laws, treat trade unions as their partners and respect the dignity of their workers.

‘’I would dare say that many, if not most employers, particularly in urban areas, have no idea of the living conditions of their employees or may even be oblivious to their daily challenges

in trying to provide a standard decent living for their families.’’

He concurred that too many workers are subjected to violence and harassment at work, including

gender-based-violence and sexual harassment, whilst a large complement of Namibian workers are trying to earn a livelihood in the informal sector, without legal protection.

 

This situation must be reversed, the minister said, and strongly encouraged Namibian workers to learn about the rights and protections guaranteed to them by the labour and employment laws, including the right to join a trade union.

‘’If workers are able to engage with their employers through well-functioning democratic trade unions, they will achieve better wages, better conditions of employment and an overall better

standard of living. This has been the experience throughout the world for more than a century.’’

The NEEF has been shutting down several businesses in the capital and around the country such as the Katutura KFC and Namib Mills for alleged discrimination, poor work relations and exploitation of workers.

They have been rocking up at the workplaces unannounced and without prior arrangement, demanding to meet with the CEO or other senior managers to discuss or complain about the wages or conditions of employment at the company.

If the employer does not agree to meet them, they proceed to block the entrance to the company or engage in other tactics that will stop operations.

 

By Observer