The Namibian (Windhoek)

2 October 2012

Namibia: Nafau Congress Forges Ahead Despite Disputes

THE long-overdue congress of the Namibia Food and Allied Workers Union (Nafau) planned for this week risks being aborted because of a standoff between the union's president and its secretary general. Despite being suspended by Nafau president Abel Kazondunge last month, secretary general Kiros Sacharias has refused to vacate his office and sent out an invitation yesterday morning announcing the congress to be held at Eenhana in the Omusati Region.

Sacharias and his supporters are saying that the meeting which suspended him was held "clandestinely" and was not attended by all National Executive Committee (NEC) members. Kazondunge also suspended a number of other NEC members.

What further clouds the planning of the congress is Kazondunge's alleged unwillingness to have it held now.

Around 400 delegates are expected to attend the congress, according to the organisers.

Peter Nuugulu, one of the organisers of the congress, which has not been sanctioned by the sitting president, yesterday said that Kazondunge had made a last-ditch attempt to stop the congress from happening by refusing to sign a cheque for buying congress materials.

Despite the fact that Kazondunge's presidency of the union is questioned, he is a co-signatory to the union's cheque account.

"Delegates are up in arms over this; it is their money," Nuugulu said.

He claimed that Kazondunge was not a paid-up member of the union and that he should have recused himself from the position since he was not currently employed - a prerequisite for holding a position in the union. A source inside the union said Kazondunge had not been paying his union membership fees since 2007.

He was laid off from Windhoek Schlachterei in 2010 and, according to the source, has since then been reluctant to sign union cheques.

"He is always trying to delay things deliberately. It seems he has an agenda; he does not want to leave," the source said.

Nuugulu again echoed a general sentiment in the union that Sackarias's suspension was illegally done, and that members are calling for Kazondunge's head. The branches that came out against Sackarias's suspension and rejected it were Walvis Bay, Lüderitz, Keetmanshoop, Oshakati, Ondangwa, Katima Mulilo, and Tsumeb.

Kazondunge would not be drawn into commenting on any of the allegations yesterday, merely saying that he did not have the mandate of the NEC, the highest decision-making body of the union between congresses, to speak to the media.

"I am bound by structures; these are internal matters. I cannot be above the law. It would be premature to make any comment," Kazondunge said.

Nuugulu would also not say much about the issues to be addressed at the congress, only saying that it would elect a new president, vice president, general secretary and executive committee members.

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