SWAKOPMUND - The Mineworkers Union of Namibia (MUN) yesterday said it would remove Erongo regional governor Cleophas Mutjavikua from its wage negotiation team after an audio recording emerged of him supposedly supporting retrenchments at Husab mine.
An audio recording of a discussion purportedly between Mutjavikua and the management of Swakop Uranium about the ongoing salary negotiations emerged late on Tuesday.
It caused a commotion on social networks, with accusations that the governor – himself a former unionist – suggested retrenchments as an option for Swakop Uranium, where workers downed tools this week.
Mutjavikua denied making such recommendation to the mine when contacted for comment yesterday.
In the 12-minute audio recording, the governor seems to suggest to the mine management that there is a loophole in the Labour Act (the reorganisational restructuring clause) regarding the company acceding to the union’s demands.
The conversation is said to have taken place sometime last week in Swakopmund.
MUN Western Regional Chairperson Abuid Kapere yesterday in a press statement said Mutjavikua must come clean and government should act on the matter before workers take action against the governor.
Kapere condemned the comments attributed to Mutjavikua, saying it was shocking that those that have been elected and appointed to advance the interest of Namibian citizens are in fact in bed with the enemy under the pretence of advancing “foreign investments”.
“We wish to categorically put on record our disappointment in what should be the political representative of the president in the region to make utterances like that. We would thus expect the governor to come clean publicly on this very sensitive matter before the workers take appropriate action,” Kapere said.
He also warned the management of Swakop Uranium that it should be noted that their mandate with the company as far as industrial relations are concerned remains unchanged and that MUN remains unshaken and unafraid of their cowardly and unethical conduct throughout legitimate processes.
They also requested the Swapo regional coordinator’s immediate intervention in this sensitive matter before the workers take appropriate action.
Mutjavikua is also heard in the recording saying that President Hage Geingob is likely to side with the employees in the current standoff as this is election year.
The governor yesterday flatly denied having suggested any retrenchments at the Chinese-owned mine.
“In fact, the whole conversation was about 30 minutes long and this specific audio that was released was edited. Let them release the full audio to put the issue in perspective. I never mentioned the word retrenchment and job losses at all, nor did I advise the company to retrench. I made it clear to the company that that no-one must lose their jobs,” Mutajvikua said yesterday.
“It’s not a secret that I mediate between the two parties,” he said.
Mutjavikua admitted that he referred to the re-organisation clause in the Labour Act based on a question relating to the systems and processes which the company wanted to address.
“I am apologising if the use of the words re-organisation structuring offended the workers as this was never that there must be job losses. Nor did I try to fool the labour commissioner. We are advocating for jobs, how I can suggest retrenchments? I have been all along been advocating that Swakop Uranium employs more people,” Mutjavikua said.
Swakop Uranium also released a statement yesterday afternoon in which it said that the recording was made illegally and is thus unethical.
The mine’s vice-president Percy McCallum said they reserve the right to investigate the unauthorised and illegal recording of the conversation as such information was privileged and confidential.
“Without prejudice to any right which the company may have by law, we reserve the right to take action including legal action against the perpetrators,” he said.