General secretary of the Namibia Food and Allied Workers Union (Nafau), Kiros Sackarias.
SEVERAL of the trade unions affiliated to the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW) are engulfed in a leadership crisis as workers are becoming more radical in their actions and demands to retake control of their unions.
The latest development is yesterday's summary suspension of the general secretary of the Namibia Food and Allied Workers Union (Nafau), Kiros Sackarias.
Nafau president Abel Kazondunge yesterday handed Sackarias his letter of suspension which merely stated that the suspension is pending an investigation.
Tension among the leadership of the Mineworkers' Union of Namibia (MUN) also reached boiling point when nine national executive committee (NEC) members were suspended on Monday.
MUN general secretary Jonas Lumbu was suspended by the NEC on Saturday.
MUN president John Ndeutepo yesterday refused to elaborate, only saying that "clandestine activities" had led to the suspensions.
"We cannot be specific - that would be prejudiced to the investigation," Ndeutepo said.
In both suspension cases the ambit of the investigations is not spelled out, but some union sources claim that this is a result of how workers have upped their efforts to take over control of the unions.
Sackarias and Nafau National Executive Committee (NEC) member Fillemon Iimbili said the decision to suspend Sackarias was illegally taken at an ill-conceived "urgent special" meeting last Saturday by "certain elements" that are determined to stop the congress scheduled for October 4 to 7 from going ahead. This congress is already overdue by two years.
Sackarias yesterday said he had not received any minutes of the weekend meeting, and neither had he been informed of the reasons for his suspension.
He said he had no intention of leaving the union office, commenting: "I cannot act on something if I do not know what it is. I will only do so if the members say I should leave, but I have the mandate of members and cannot be moved by illicit members."
Various branches of Nafau have come out in support of Sackarias - notably Walvis Bay, LÃ¼deritz, Keetmanshoop, Oshakati, Ondangwa, Katima Mulilo, and Tsumeb - some of which last week called for the immediate removal of Nafau president Kazondunge, who has been unemployed for years and, in terms of the union's constitution, cannot claim union membership.
MUN's Ndeutepo said in the suspension letter of some of his NEC members that the "president has decided to launch an official investigation into these [clandestine] activities aimed at destroying the very fibre and standing of the union".
The suspended members were told to hand in any MUN property in their possession and were told to be available "at all times when required for the investigating committee".
Also in trouble is the Namibia Public Workers Union (Napwu) after last week's controversial congress that saw the re-election of its general secretary, Petrus Nevonga.
Disgruntled Napwu members preferring anonymity said theywere considering two options: either to challenge the outcome of the congress, or to mobilise members to leave the union en masse.
"Napwu serves no purpose," said one dissatisfied Napwu member. "Workers are not consulted on the most basic of issues. Workers are not consulted by the leaders on how to proceed on the salary increments now under discussion with Government. In 2007 already we instructed the union not to negotiate without the mandate of the workers, but it went ahead and did so. The general secretary [Nevonga] is still sidelining us."
Another insider said: "Under normal circumstances these issues would have been nothing out of the ordinary, but the impunity with which some leaders are carrying on union affairs manifest complete disregard for workers' place in the union.
It is almost as if union entities are owned by the leadership to the exclusion of workers."
The insider stressed that union membership and leadership were entirely voluntary, and that the idea had always been to inculcate a sense of belonging and collective ownership.
"But some people have decided to hijack the unions in the last number of years. There is a tendency in unions to be personality driven, with workers feeling far removed. Leaders have taken advantage of this tendency and turned unions into entities they can control for their own benefit, be that economic or political."