Labour expert Herbert Jauch says the current leadership of the Namibia Food and Allied Workers Union (Nafau) no longer have a mandate over the affairs of the union after the expiration of their term of office in 2020.
The current leadership consists of Mike Karupu (president), Abiud Tjipangandjara (deputy president), Jacob Penda (general secretary), Willem Absalom (deputy general secretary), Beaty Shanyengange (treasurer) and her deputy Jennetha Kapere.
In an interview with The Namibian earlier this month, Jauch said Nafau’s failure to hold an elective congress has rendered them illegitimate.
“They now fall foul of the requirements set out in the Labour Act and by the Office of the Labour Commissioner. Once your term expires as a union leader, of course, you no longer have a mandate,” said Jauch.
Nafau president Karupu declined to comment yesterday.
“It (Nafau leadership issues) has nothing to do with him or anyone else,” said Karupu before hanging up the phone.
The congress was initially scheduled for October or November 2020, but Nafau general secretary Penda, cited Covid-19 regulations as the reason for the postponement.
However, three years have since passed, and Nafau has still not held its elective congress.
Jauch argues that Covid-19 should no longer be used as an excuse by unions to avoid holding large gatherings.
“Now we are in 2023, and there’s no good reason for unions not to hold congresses. Even political parties are holding their congresses, and they are often much larger in number,” said Jauch.
He advised workers to take charge of the union and demand a congress.
According to Jauch, elections and congresses are platforms where workers can express themselves in terms of policies, priorities for the union, and the selection of leaders.
“If they don’t have congresses, they can’t give mandates and can’t elect. It’s a fundamental principle of union democracy,” he said.
The Walvis Bay, Windhoek, and Oshakati branches, which have the majority of members, have reportedly been demanding a congress since 2020. However, Nafau deputy general secretary Absalom declined to disclose the set date for 2023.
“Why do you want to know? It is premature to tell the media when our congress is, but we will let you know when the time comes,” he said, adding that Nafau members are aware of when the congress will take place.
However, several branches confirm that they have not been informed of the date of the congress.
“I don’t have such information. Maybe you can call the head office because they are the ones to provide us with such information. I have not received any information at the branch level,” said Swakopmund branch organiser Miina Katuu.
Walvis Bay branch chairperson Panduleni Shikongo could also not confirm when the congress would take place.
“That information is not yet available,” he said.
Penda refuted Jauch’s claim that Nafau’s leadership are in office illegally.
“We are not there illegally. Any person can approach my office if they need more information, but we are here legally to ensure everything is done in line with the mandate installed by the structural body of the union,” he said.
He urged for understanding of the difficulties faced by Nafau and its members, highlighting that decisions made in the absence of a congress were based on careful consideration of several factors and the union’s prevailing circumstances.
Penda said the congress could not be staged in 2020 due to Covid-19 regulations.
“Covid-19 still harms the income of the world and Namibia. We have all been negatively affected. Nafau is not exempted from that.”
He said members judged their income and expenditure to decide if the congress would take place, and opted not to host the congress from 2022 until today. However, he could not provide a specific date on which this decision was made.