THE leaders of the illegal strike which teachers embarked on two and a half weeks ago are due to hear on December 5 whether they have been convicted of contempt of court for disobeying a court interdict against the strike.
Lawyer Sisa Namandje, representing Government and the Minister of Education, argued in the Labour Court in Windhoek yesterday that trade unionists Evilastus Kaaronda and Mahongora Kavihuha, and Dankie Katjiuanjo, Josef Katjingisiua, and Elfrieda Mwagbo, who are claimed to be the prime movers behind the strike by hundreds of teachers, should all be held in contempt of court.
Namandje argued that it has been shown that they disobeyed and disrespected an interdict of the Labour Court which was issued on November 2 – four days after the start of the strike – and which directed the striking teachers not to unlawfully engage in any strike.
Kaaronda’s lawyer, Edwin Coetzee, argued that because Kaaronda was not involved in the court proceedings which resulted in the interdict of November 2, he cannot be found guilty of contempt of court in connection with that court order.
Kaaronda in any event denies having made remarks at a gathering by the striking teachers and other Government employees in Windhoek on November 5 which instigated teachers to continue striking in defiance of the court order, Coetzee told Acting Judge Collins Parker. He added that Kaaronda also denied having asked public servants to embark on an illegal strike.
It was widely reported in the media that at that gathering Kaaronda had called on other Government employees to also go on a strike that should cripple Government.
The interdict which was issued on November 2 was also widely reported in the media.
Kaaronda, however, was not aware of that court order before he addressed the teachers’ meeting on November 5, Coetzee told the judge.
On behalf of Kavihuha, who is the president of the Teachers Union of Namibia, Katjiuanjo, Mwagbo, and Katjingisiua, Steve Rukoro argued that it has not been proven that any of them was guilty of contempt of court.
In affidavits by them which have been filed with the court, they have apologised if their conduct was disrespectful of the court’s order, Rukoro pointed out. He said they have also committed themselves to fully comply with the court order, and have denied that they intentionally disobeyed the interdict, Rukoro said.
Namandje argued that Kaaronda had made common cause with the teachers who continued striking in defiance of the November 2 interdict. Kaaronda should be found guilty of contempt for instigating teachers to continue with the strike, even if he was no involved in the proceedings which resulted in the issuing of the interdict, he argued.
He also argued that while Katjiuanjo, Kavihuha, Katjingisiua, and Mwagbo are claiming in their affidavits that they are now committed to complying with the court order, the media statement which was issued when it was announced on Monday that the strike would be called off was clear in indicating that the leaders of the strike still wanted to attach conditions to their undertaking to end the strike.
These conditions include demands that Government should not apply the no pay no work principle, but should still pay the teachers for the time they spent refusing to work, that “illegal pending cases” against the teachers should be withdrawn, that Government should reopen the just-concluded salary negotiations with teachers and other public servants, and that Government, the Minister of Education and the Namibia National Teachers Union (Nantu) should apologise to the teachers for allegedly shutting their doors on them and thus allowing the strike to continue.
These conditions indicate that there is still no unconditional compliance with the court order, Namandje argued.
Acting Judge Parker reserved his judgement, which he said would be handed down on December 5.
Government and the Minister of Education are asking the court to hold the respondents in contempt, and then to impose a period of imprisonment or a fine on them. This sentence could be suspended on condition that they adhere to the November 2 order.