18 January 2013

Namibia: Strike Leaders' Contempt Hearing Postponed

Photo: Leadership
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A COURT hearing which should determine the fate of the leaders of the teachers' strike who were found guilty of contempt of court early last month is now scheduled for Tuesday next week.

Acting Judge Collins Parker was due to hear evidence and arguments in mitigation of sentence on behalf of the strike leaders in the Labour Court in Windhoek yesterday, but was asked by the legal representative of four of the convicted strike organisers, Steven Rukoro, to be given more time to consult his clients before he addresses the court.

As a result of Rukoro's request, the hearing of evidence and arguments in mitigation was postponed to Tuesday.

Acting Judge Parker held the president of the Teachers Union of Namibia, Mahongora Kavihuha, trade unionist Evilastus Kaaronda, and Dankie Katjiuanjo, Josef Katjingisiua, and Elfrieda Mwagbo, who were claimed to have been the prime movers behind the strike by hundreds of teachers in early November, in contempt of court in a ruling given on December 5.

Kaaronda was held in contempt of court for having publicly encouraged other civil servants to join the teachers' strike after an interdict in which the teachers were restrained from unlawfully engaging in any strike had been granted by Judge Kato van Niekerk on November 2.

Kaaronda incited the striking teachers to disobey the court order, Acting Judge Parker found.

The minister of education asked the court to grant the November 2 interdict after teachers in the Khomas Region, demanding salary increases, embarked on an illegal strike on October 29. Teachers in other parts of the country soon joined the strike, which still continued for about a week after the interdict had been issued.

When the strike continued in spite of the court order against it, the education minister and Government returned to court on November 9 to ask that the strike leaders and Kaaronda should be found guilty of contempt of court and then be sentenced.

Acting Judge Parker also found that Kavihuha, Katjiuanjo, Katjingisiua and Mwagbo had disobeyed the court order of November 2, and thus were guilty of contempt of court.

They contended that they had thought they had the right to continue with their industrial action and that their action would not have been in contempt of court.

Government and the education minister have asked 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, it has also been suggested.

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