12 November 2012

Namibia: Ovaherero Chief Supports Bigger Increase for Teachers

Windhoek — Chief Alex Kavei of Gam, which falls under the Ovaherero Traditional Authority (OTA), is baffled by the fact that the Namibia National Teachers' Union (Nantu) went ahead with the signing of an 8 percent salary increase for all civil servants, apparently without consulting teachers.

"They [Nantu] gave the teachers no room for additional bargaining," he claimed, adding that the union did not represent the striking teachers correctly. He pleaded with the government, teachers and Nantu to revisit the demands of the striking teachers even though the High Court has declared the strike illegal.

One of the striking teachers and the President of the Teachers' Union of Namibia (TUN), Mahongora Kavihuha, also claimed Nantu did not consult with any of the teachers prior to the signing of the 8 percent increase, nor did they consult with teachers during the negotiations. "It is disgusting ... if the representing union does not report back to the masses, what is the legitimacy of the agreement?" charged Mahongora.

"You have to keep the people you are leading informed continuously and consolidate the opinion of the workers," he said, adding that prior to the signing of the agreement on the 8 percent increase, Nantu never once asked the teachers if they would be satisfied with that increase. Mahongora accused the government of promoting chaos by siding with leaders of a union who are not in touch with the masses on the ground.

Furthermore, the outspoken Mahongora urged Nantu, as the recognised union, to be accountable to all teachers whether they are Swapo Party members or not, or whether they are members of the union or not. "They have assumed responsibility for representing everyone," Mahongora said.

In support of the teachers, Chief Kavei explained that the 8 percent increase granted by government is not sufficient to secure the livelihood of homeless, hungry teachers. "Maybe it is enough for higher paid employees, but not lowly paid workers," he said.

He emphasised that teachers have demanded an increase of 40 percent but they only received 8 percent and he urged all parties to renegotiate the increase for a mutually desired result.

When approached for comment, Nantu secretary general Basilius Haingura reiterated that under no circumstances did he execute his personal tasks without the mandate from the existing structures, such as the regional executive committee, the national executive committee or congress, among others.

He explained that on January 26 this year, Nantu requested all 13 regions through the structures to submit proposals for the negotiation agenda. According to Haingura, 12 regions responded, however the Khomas Region failed to respond except for two schools in the region.

"When we received the proposals, we called a national teachers' council including all the regions and summarised the proposal together before submitting it to government," he said, adding that suspended Nantu Khomas regional chairperson, Dankie Katjiuanjo, was present during the deliberations.

"We decided that if the negotiations were going out of our mandate, then we would come back to the members through the structures," he said.

The mandate was to adjust the salary according to inflation (currently at 6.7 percent) and increase the fringe benefits, according to Haingura, who said he did his job as best as he could and can therefore not be faulted.

"The negotiations went according to the mandate and this is on record," he maintained.

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