President Hage Geingob has refused to entertain requests to intervene in the ongoing Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) strike which has now entered its fourth
week, saying Namibia is a country that adheres to the rule of law and champions effective governance through adherence to processes, systems and institutions.
“The impasse at the NBC, which has regrettably attracted your attention, albeit for wrong reasons, is fundamentally about a labour dispute between employees of the corporation and management, including the board of directors,” Geingob told the Greece Periodical and Electronic Press Union (PEPU) president Themis Beredimas in a letter on Tuesday.
“We are a country that adheres to processes, systems and institutions, and it is within this context that the workers of the NBC declared a labour dispute when the salary negotiations reached a deadlock with the NBC management four weeks ago”, he said.
Beredimas, in solidarity with NBC workers, last week wrote to Geingob requesting his intervention in the saga.
The striking employees are demanding an 8% pay rise, and an increase in transport, accommodation and medical aid allowances. They also want workers who have been on monthly contracts to be offered permanent contracts, the purchasing of more modern equipment, and better working conditions.
Geingob told Beredimas the matter is before the labour court and will be heard soon.
“In terms of corporate governance, the government cannot intervene in the matter, and as a shareholder we respect, in terms of the Companies Act, decisions taken by the board and management of the NBC,” he stated.
Geingob added that procedurally, the court will now make an independent determination on aspects of the dispute, which all stakeholders, including the workers, management and government as shareholder, will respect, uphold and implement.
“While we appreciate your concern on the labour dispute at the NBC and your decision to support your Namibian colleagues by way of this correspondence to the Presidency, there is no cause for concern,” Geingob said, adding that the matter will be decided through the transparent systems, processes and institutions of Namibia as is always the case when a dispute is registered between parties.
Meanwhile, pensioners who mostly rely on radio broadcasts for information like the dates and venues of their pension payouts, have been begging government to sort out the NBC strike.
A pensioner recently visited Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila’s office, where she wanted to hand over a N$100 note to Kuugongelwa-Amadhila to go towards the salary demands of NBC employees.
Also, New Era recently engaged constituency councillors in various regions who frequently use NBC’s indigenous language radio services to communicate their plans, announcements and government activities on how the strike has affected them in reaching out to the masses they represent.
Karibib councillor Melania Ndjago said the national radio strike has caused great disruption to their developmental programmes with the people they represent.
Similar sentiments were shared by Otjinene constituency councillor Erwin Katjizeu, who said he viewed NBC radio and television as their main modes of communication, and that this strike has left their community in the dark, especially during these times of the devastating Covid-19 pandemic.
Kabbe South’s John Likando said the people in his area depend on radio for communication as the network coverage is poor in many constituencies.
Councillor Andreas Amundjindi of the Uukwiyu-Uushona constituency in the Oshana region said the strike has affected them in terms of communicating morning announcements on the happenings and developments in their constituency and elsewhere.
Omuntele councillor Sacky Nangula said everybody is affected by the strike because there is no communication of important information, especially on Covid-19 and the vaccination exercise being rolled out.
New Era also spoke to various regional health directors this week, who agreed that the absence of NBC radio broadcasts negatively affected the Covid-19 vaccination programmes, and created a vacuum where misinformation thrives, resulting in deep vaccine skepticism.