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Opinion - Anarchism of workers exploitation in Namibia

2021-06-01  Staff Reporter

Opinion - Anarchism of workers exploitation in Namibia
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Questions about exploitation arise in a wide variety of different circumstances, not just in the field of political philosophy but also in various areas of applied ethics such as business ethics. The exploitation, therefore, involves Party A unfairly benefitting from interaction with Party B. Business people have adapted a new norm of recruiting illiterate employees to manipulate and mistreat them. 

Due to the government’s muteness, such employers are benefiting from unethical labour practices at the expense of poor employees. Workers are slowly but surely losing their trust in the government since those in power seem to be unbothered by the massive outcry from the less privileged. Most of the aggrieved workers are employed in construction, security, charcoal, farming, retailing, and manufacturing, trucking industries as well as housemaids and petrol attendants.

Many workers are suffering at the hands of both native and foreign business owners. Their bosses exploit them physically, emotionally, and financially. They are employed under unhealthy working conditions with lack or no protective equipment, they get peanuts and unnecessary deductions and sometimes their salaries are withheld. They are exposed to unfair dismissal and cruel treatment. They are offered unfair employment contracts that endure no fringe benefits. Sometimes they find themselves working long working hours with no compensations.

The main perpetrators are black business owners that are hiding behind the shadow of boers. Back then, if you hear workers’ exploitation, the only thing that comes to your mind is boers but today, it is quite different because several black people inherited the maltreatment of workers. They are worse than those who started it. Some black business owners would be acting like they are treating their employees fairly and properly but in actual sense, they are the ones that are maltreating our brothers and sisters. To understand this, one should first answer the following question. Between a black businessperson and a white businessperson who is more sincere? In Namibia, a white person will face the full wrath of the law when he/she happens to exploit workers or get involved in some hate speech and racist remarks. 

If black people behave similarly, they are pardoned and no actions are taken against them. Those who have connections with the ones in power mostly enjoy such special treatment. It is undeniable whites are vulnerable to such treatments. What happened to One Namibia, One Nation? This level of injustice is sickening and needs to end. Riaan Van Rooyen is an example of this. 

The former sales manager of Bank Windhoek got fired after he made racist remarks on his personal Facebook page. Justice should be delivered equally to all members of the society that is the only way we can effectively war against discrimination, racism, crimes, and workers’ exploitation.

Employees within the aforementioned sectors are suffering at the hands of employers. Many workers are employed without legal contracts. They are left all alone in the cold since they cannot raise their voices demanding better and fair treatment, as they fear losing their jobs. They opted to suffer in silence because the government is quiet. If the judicial system, ministry of labour, unionists, and other relevant bodies do not act in the best interest of those suffering, violence and looting will erupt. 

The consequences are inevitable only if the government takes a proactive approach to the situation, anything other than that will be costly. Yes, we do not want to lose investors but we also have to consider those that voted us into power. We should not wait for another life to be lost for us to take the matter seriously. The reactive approach will bear the greatest damage.

Namibians should condemn wrongdoings and call for harsher punishment even if it is their relatives who must dance to the music without fear or favour. Harsher penalties will discourage those that are mistreating workers to stop. Why is it easy to give a taxi driver a fine or ticket worth N$10 000 but it is difficult to deal with successful businesses for contravening the law? 

We should all be capable of sympathising, of acting in the best interest of the masses, of sacrificing, and of advancing a struggle to liberate the nation from all forms of oppression.

It is a shared responsibility of all trade unions, the ministry of labour, and other stakeholders to ensure that all workers have access to work that meet the following criteria: delivers a fair income with security and social protection, safeguards basic rights, ensures equality concerning treatment, and offers the chance for recognition and to have one’s voice heard and most importantly fair contracts of employment (contracts with at least benefits or pension).

How can one tell that his/her employer is deceitful? When your salary is over N$40 000 per annum but you don’t pay the pay-as-you-earn tax. In cases like this, both the employer and the employees are stealing from the government and deserve to be dealt with. The employee can avoid this by whistleblowing externally to the government agencies such as the Namibia Revenue Agency. 

NamRA conducted a meeting with the business communities in the Oshana region to create awareness on the importance of paying domestic taxes to avoid the business communities from defrauding customs and excise when importing their goods to Namibia. Perhaps the same meeting should be held with the working class to create awareness in terms of pay-as-you-earn tax. Defrauding both could lead to an economic downturn of the country. NamRa should work towards improving the protection of the whistleblowers.

Contracts of employment must be declared compulsory regardless of whether the job is casual, housekeeping, or farm work. 

The department of labour can easily investigate foul play when employees are offered contracts of employment where there is foul. House/farm owners are employing workers in absence of written agreements, which makes it easy for them to escape the law due to certain technicalities that the department of labour looks on for a case to be registered with them. 

There are still big companies that recruited or still recruiting workers without offering them a contract of employment. These same employers don’t give payslips at all. They do this so they manipulate and fire them anytime they feel like they want to get rid of them because they can get any person and do the same thing again.

If there is any region that needs to be given credits for standing its ground while fighting unfair labour practices, in this case, it should be the Otjozondjupa region. Otjozondjupa governor James Uerikua and regional council chairperson Marlayn Mbakera took it until the minister of labour and other labour officials when they expressed dissatisfaction over non-compliance with labour standards by some employers in the region. 

Leaders across the country should unite and work towards a common goal of eradicating the exploitation of workers regardless of their political affiliation. 

Happiness breeds productivity, the country needs happy workers to revive the dying economy.

2021-06-01  Staff Reporter

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