Windhoek — The expelled National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW) secretary general Evilastus Kaaronda, the Teachers Union of Namibia (TUN) president Mahongora Kavihuha, Dankie Katjiuanjo, Elfrieda Mwagbo and Josef Katjingisiua got off lightly in the High Court yesterday.
All the five accused received suspended sentences.
Acting Judge Collins Parker sentenced the five each to a fine of N$4 000 or nine months imprisonment, wholly suspended on condition that they desist with immediate effect from any act that is calculated or meant to have or is likely to have the effect of instigating or encouraging the disobedience of the order of the Labour Court granted on November 2 2012.
In essence the five accused do not have to pay anything.
On November 2, Judge Kato van Niekerk handed down a ruling restraining Kaaronda from instigating teachers who had been striking over wages.
In the judgment Acting Judge Parker said a suspended sentence has two beneficial effects: "It prevents the offender from going to jail and to my mind, a matter of very great importance, the man has the sentence hanging over him - if he behaves himself he will not have to serve it.
"On the other hand, if he does not behave himself, he will have to serve it."
The Acting Judge said the deterrent effect of a suspended sentence cannot be doubted.
Sisa Namandje who appeared for the Minister of Education Dr Abraham Iyambo and the Government said the five had asked for mercy but even after the striking teachers were ordered to end their illegal strike with immediate effect, they continued with their action.
"Namandje's submission is that their apparent show of remorse is not sincere, and that the five (respondents) have just put up a show that they are well-behaved citizens," the Acting Judge said.
He added that it may be so, "but I think the court should always try to see the positive side of a person's conduct and be prepared to give him or her the benefit of the doubt in a positive light."
"I do not think they are disingenuous, there is no evidence placed before the court to show that they are disingenuous," Acting Judge Parker said.
The Acting Judge further said that in considering an appropriate sentence, "I have taken into account the following factors: the nature of the offence, the circumstances of the commission of the offence and the personal circumstances of the respondents."
"This case concerns civil contempt, as opposed to criminal contempt," Acting Judge Parker said.
He added civil contempt procedure is a means of enforcing performance of a judgment, that is to say, it is to coerce the offender to do or refrain from doing something in accordance with an order obtained against him or her, and should not be merely punitive.
Acting Judge Parker found the five in contempt of court in the High Court in December, after the Minister of Education, Dr Abraham Iyambo, and the Government brought an urgent application before the Labour Court on November 9, in which they requested the court to find Kaaronda and a group of teachers and other public servants who were involved in an illegal strike in contempt of court.
During the strike last year, teachers demanded a 40 percent salary increase, and they rejected Government's offer of 8 percent, vowing to continue with their action until their demands were met.
Sisa Namandje, represented Dr Abraham Iyambo and the Government, on instructions from the Government Attorney's office. Steve Rukoro represented Kaaronda, Kavihuha, Katjiuanjo, Mwagbo and Katjingisiua on instructions from the law firm Kaumbi-Shikale Incorporated.