Unemployment is the number one crisis Namibia is facing. A growing number of Namibian workers are employed in atypical jobs; sub-contracting and casualisation is becoming the order of the day. All this means that huge numbers of our people are trapped in grinding poverty.
A growing number of the employed fall in the category of the working poor! That remains our problem. Only if revolutionary trade unions, and their unselfish membership, risks and sacrifices all to put pressure on capital in particular, can this crisis be attended to.
On the Mineworkers Union of Namibia’s (MUN) dispute with Tsumeb Corporation Limited (TCL): TCL was planning the closure of the De Wet mine shaft in June 1996 and according to MUN it was tantamount to unfair dismissal and ‘retrenchments without notice’ particularly of MUN members. In a list of over 20 demands, MUN also charged TCL with discrimination and with employing former Koevoet and SWATF members as security guards to threaten and harass workers. 700 mineworkers took to the streets in Tsumeb in a MUN organised march to TCL headquarters. The Mineworkers’ Union of Namibia (MUN) was formed 26 years ago in Namibia. The union has not vanished as you claim.
In March 2000, Namibia’s High Court accepted an offer by Ongopolo Mining and Processing Limited (“OMPL”) to take over GFN’s mines at Tsumeb, Kombat, Otjihase and Khusib Springs, as well as the Smelter complex in Tsumeb.
In July 2006 Weatherly Mining International acquired OMPL. In December 2008 Weatherly suspended all mining operations because of a major decline in the world copper price and only kept the Tsumeb Smelter going. The Smelter was converted to a toll smelter at the beginning of 2009.
In March 2010, Weatherly sold the Smelter to Dundee Precious Metals Inc. for N$33 million in cash and shares with Weatherly retaining all mining assets. The Tsumeb Copper Mine is a world renowned polymetallic mine that was in production for just under 100 years.
Rhino Closure: On 16 September 2003, SA Tai Wah and May Garment gave notice that their operations in Dimaza, Eastern Cape, South Africa would cease resulting in job losses for 2,500 workers. Apparently, this was due to the company’s relocation of production to Namibia. Most workers in South Africa earned around N$950 per month while the wages paid in Namibia are lower.
Before Ramatex started its operations in Namibia, concerns were raised regarding the environmental impact of the company’s operations.
Earthlife Namibia approached various ministries and the City of Windhoek to enquire about the environmental assessment, especially regarding the company’s water consumption, health and safety measures for workers and people living near the factory and the possible pollution through contaminated waste.
In early 2008 the company abruptly pulled up stakes and left Namibia. Its departure came in the midst of controversy around charges of pollution and bad labour practices – including forced pregnancy tests for female job applicants, and insufficient health and safety measures!
Farmworkers Minimum Wage: The Namibia Agriculture Forum (NAF) negotiated the minimum wage agreement in 2002. NAF consisted of Agriculture Employers Association of Namibia (AEA), Namibia National Farmers Union (NNFU) and the Namibia Farmworkers Union (Nafwu). Being the parties to this collective agreement, desiring to maintain labour peace in the agricultural sector, realising the need to curb and prevent exploitation of farm workers, and having welcomed the principle of determining a minimum wage for farm workers. The minimum wage was never imposed on the employers and was gazetted by government. Your facts are flawed! Domestic workers remain one of the most vulnerable and marginalised groups of workers in Namibia.
More than twelve years ago a presidential commission of inquiry into the working conditions of domestic workers and farmworkers was appointed by the Founding President and conducted a study after criss-crossing Namibia. The report is available at the National Archives.
Role of Trade Unions and Civil Society: Civil societies and trade unions are the main power resources of the working people and nation at large. The power in this collectivity of workers and civil organisations can promote the resolution of a variety of problems faced by the workers and the nation at large. The role of trade unions to their members includes economic emancipation, social welfare, political, psychological benefits, and opportunity to participate in managerial functions in the industry and stand against actions of government that affect its members. I don’t know why you are a member of NANGOF, the umbrella body of the civil organisations in Namibia, if you are questioning the role of civil society!
I find myself disagreeing with you more and more. I guess it all comes down to perspective!