Saturday 17 April 2021
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Is the union dead?

The failure by the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW) to fill the Windhoek Youth complex to capacity during the May Day celebrations has raised eye-brows with curious questions arising concerning its influence and its ability to mobilise the workers.
NUNW, being an affiliate of the ruling Swapo party finds itself in a tight fix considering that it faces the uphill task to drum up the requisite grass roots support ahead of critical elections slated for November this year.
The beggared turn up at the youth complex also saw the head of state, President Hage Geingob snubbing the event altogether and his speech had to be delivered by the Swapo secretary general, Sophia Shaaningwa.
Commenting at the low turnout, NUNW president, Job Muniaro denied that it was an illustration of weakness on their part saying that as a union they could not force people to attend.
“You see, a union is not a building. A union is a human being. And as a person who has his own rights that are protected by the constitution and by labour laws. Also by the virtue of their own registration, one cannot talk about things that will not make sense. What do you mean if you say we are dead if your members are still alive? They never abandoned the union.”
In his bid to demonstrate that they were still a force to reckon with, Muniaro added they needed not to show their authority through acts of force.
“Those days when we were young unionists we were resisting and rejecting colonialism and we were not having a platform to talk with the colonial government as we were using stones in our pockets to throw at them to disturb their peace so that they can talk to us. And those days they were making sure that they would not listen. They were using bullets, they were using Koevoets. In an independent country with an independent situation that we have now our expressions should not go to that point where we were destroying institutions and burning schools down,” he said.
He described NUNW as the best negotiator in the world adding, “That’s why they are scared to come into board rooms because if they come in boardrooms they will find us”.
“If Calle (finance minister) says he is going to deduct that (medical aid) money without our consent, and Calle is a superpower we will take him to another superpower which is the court. That’s the way to go to keep peace and stability in the country.”
Muniaro added that he was not happy with the pace at which the finalization of the Namibia Equitable Economic Empowerment Framework (NEEEF) was moving.
The framework has long been considered as Namibia’s panacea to economic inequalities via empowering previously disadvantaged Namibians. A clause which hogged controversy proposed that ceding of 25% shares to previously disadvantaged locals and was considered as targeting white companies although government denied this at every turn. Geingob finally buckled under pressure and scrapped it off, as the entire framework in its initial form was seen as a catalyst to negative rating by rating agencies.
A long silence masked NEEEF as it was reportedly shelved until Geingob publicly mentioned it for the first time this year in his State of the Nation Address.
Muniaro’s criticism of the slow pace on NEEEF was a response the President’s message to workers in which he promised that he would expedite the process and have it treated as a matter of urgency.
“When you speak of economic emancipation, it should not be a call by the President (alone). When speaking of the economy, we are not speaking about the government. We speak about the people, the knowledge, qualifications and skills. So when you want to tackle the economy you cannot leave the experienced people who have never gone to school.” “You can also not leave retired skilled people as advisors. You cannot leave the private sector. But now, economic emancipation as a matter of urgency should be only when you bring all our brains together to address that problem,” he said.
In the meantime, the President has differed with some unions which have regarded foreign direct investment as a curse to local business.
“I wish to state that given our developmental aspirations, large inflows of foreign investments are a prerequisite for a sustainable high trajectory of economic growth. For the Namibian economy to sustain high economic growth, we need Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to stimulate such growth,” he said. He called on foreign companies to respect the dignity of locals adding that some were coming to Namibia on their own terms.
Namibia’s desire for such investments should thus not be seen as desperation, the President said.

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