Parliament tears into Govt for ‘neglecting’ NBC concerns

THE parliamentary standing committee on human resources has reprimanded the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology for its perceived lack of action in addressing issues raised by Namibia Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) employees.

This follows a strike by 600 NBC employees two years ago, calling for an 8% salary increase.

The parliament claims it hasn’t reached a decision about the concerns raised by employees due to the information ministry’s lack of collaboration.

Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) parliamentarian Maximalliant Katjimune, speaking during the committee’s briefing with the ministry on Tuesday, urged it to provide a comprehensive explanation of the NBC’s current situation.

“The veracity of this situation is such that it needs divine intervention, particularly from the side of the ministry. I have attended many hearings and was close to tears when we heard the testimonies from NBC staff about this situation,” he said.

Katjimune said from the ministry’s perspective, there appears to be a lack of understanding regarding the severity of the situation at the NBC.

“If we don’t intervene decisively, that institution faces collapse, and we cannot have the NBC collapsing because it is a valued state-owned enterprise,” he said.

Katjimune highlighted concerns over the lasting effects of substantial salary deductions due to the ‘no-work, no-pay rule’ implemented by the broadcaster during the five-month strike in 2021.

Additionally, employees shared concerns with the committee about the perceived ‘toxic’ working environment.

“What we are hearing from the testimonies is that the working environment at this state-owned enterprise is so toxic that managers are not speaking to employees,” Katjimune said.

Natangwe Iithete, a Swapo parliamentarian, criticised the ministry’s repeated absence from the committee’s prior meetings.

“We have a matter at hand where people have lost jobs. You are invited [to parliamentary hearings] and you chose not to come. It is uncalled for,” he said.

Iithete said the ministry undermines the legislature by consistently failing to attend committee hearings.

Eliphas Dingara, the deputy chairperson of the committee, said the 2021 strike continues to impact numerous NBC employees, as many have experienced substantial salary reductions.

“The workers of the NBC have to wait until next year for the parliament to make a decision on the strike. It is not a good thing, it was a devastating strike,” he said.

The executive director of information and communication technology, Audrin Mathe, said the ministry has picked up on the tense relationship between NBC employees and management.

“We have also picked up on the toxic working environment during our visits to some of their offices. But we have also seen those who are happy. We have to find out the truth of what is happening there,” he said.

On the delay in salary increments, Mathe said the situation is about affordability.

He said to a large extent the NBC depends on what the government allocates it.

“The funding model of the NBC should not be what it is. We have to find a way that is sustainable,” Mathe said.

In July this year, the NBC management informed the committee that it lost about N$10 million in potential revenue during an employee strike two years ago.

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