8 November 2012

Namibia: Govt Ups Pressure On Striking Teachers

THE Minister of Education and Government are set to ask the Labour Court in Windhoek tomorrow to declare that teachers who are continuing with an illegal strike are in contempt of court, and could face imprisonment for that.

Not only the striking teachers, but also trade unionists Evilastus Kaaronda, Dankie Katjiuanjo, who is one of the leaders of the committee representing the striking teachers, Teachers Union of Namibia President Mahongora Kavihuha, and two other alleged leaders of the strike, Elfrieda Mwagbo and Josef Katjingisiua, are being targeted in an urgent application lodged with the Labour Court yesterday.

Government and the Education Minister will be asking the court to declare that the striking teachers are in contempt of a court order which Judge Kato van Niekerk issued in the Labour Court on Friday last week.

The court will also be asked to issue an interim order, requiring Kaaronda, Katjiuanjo, Kavihuha, Mwagbo and Katjingisiua to show on Tuesday next week why they should not be held in contempt of court and sentenced to a period of imprisonment or a fine.

In addition to that, the court will be asked to issue an interdict against Kaaronda to restrain him from unlawfully instigating public servants to stay away from work without having followed the procedures laid out in the Labour Act for a legal strike.

The interdict issued by Judge Van Niekerk forbids the people forming part of the Interim Khomas Teachers Strategic Committee, which has been spearheading the strike that started at the beginning of last week, from unlawfully engaging in any strike.

The teachers' strike, which started in the Khomas Region and has spread to other parts of the country, has continued this week in defiance of the court's interdict.

Kaaronda has laid himself open to contempt proceedings by instigating the committee and its members to disregard a valid court order, the Deputy Minister of Education, David Namwandi, is alleging in an affidavit filed with the court.

The application to be heard tomorrow is important for the sake of the rule of law and order in Namibia, Namwandi states in his affidavit.

If the orders which Government and the Education Minister are asking for are not granted, “I have a fear that chaos will ensue and important constitutional principles relating to the effectiveness of the judiciary and the need for the respect of its order will be jeopardised,” Namwandi says.

“I have been advised that no person enjoys the right in Namibia, whether or not he likes the concerned court order, to disobey, ignore and defy such a court order that is served upon him or that has come upon his attention,” he states.

According to Namwandi, it was found this week that the majority of teachers remain on an illegal and interdicted strike, not doing their teaching duties as required.

On Monday, Kaaronda addressed a gathering of the striking teachers at the Khomasdal Stadium in Windhoek, and reportedly made a statement that he wanted to see a strike that would cripple government services, Namwandi notes.

By instigating members of the committee to embark on an illegal work stoppage, Kaaronda is unlawfully interfering with the contractual relationship between Government and its employees, Namwandi claims.

“I believe that an effective judiciary is an indispensable part of our democratic and developing country,” Namwandi says.

Should the court order be disobeyed with impunity, as demonstrated this week, the public will lose confidence in Namibia's courts, he also says. If the court does not now take robust action against those defying the interdict, it would amount to a complete collapse of the mechanism of taking disputes to court for adjudication – and that would be a recipe for chaos and disorder, he warns.

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