24 January 2013

Namibia: Suspended Sentences for Teachers' Strike Leaders

THE five people convicted of contempt of court for flouting of a court order against an illegal strike by Namibian teachers late last year all received suspended sentences yesterday.

Acting Judge Collins Parker sentenced trade unionist Evilastus Kaaronda, the president of the Teachers Union of Namibia, Mahongora Kavihuha, and teachers Dankie Katjiuanjo, Josef Katjingisiua, and Elfrieda Mwagbo each to a fine of N$4 000 or nine months' imprisonment, with the sentences suspended in their entirety.

The suspension is on condition that Kaaronda and Kavihuha must desist from doing anything that would instigate or encourage people to disobey the Labour Court interdict against the teachers' strike which was granted on November 2 last year.

The sentences of Katjiuanjo, Katjingisiua and Mwagbo were suspended on condition that they must comply with immediate effect with the November 2 court order.

In that order, which the minister of education obtained against the Interim Khomas Teachers Strategic Committee and teachers represented by it, striking teachers were restrained from unlawfully engaging in any strike.

The committee was representing teachers who, unhappy with their salaries, embarked on a strike in Windhoek at the end of October last year.

When the strike continued in defiance of the court's interdict, Government and the minister of education returned to the Labour Court in Windhoek to ask that the committee and Kaaronda, Kavihuha, Katjiuanjo, Katjingisiua and Mwagbo should be held in contempt of court and then be sentenced. Acting Judge Parker found the latter five guilty of contempt of court on December 5.

Kaaronda was held in contempt of court for having publicly encouraged other civil servants to join the teachers' strike and to cripple Government after the interdict had been granted.

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.

During the sentencing yesterday the judge said it was his view "that the sentence I impose should aim at deterring the respondents and others who are thinking of taking up a career in disobeying court orders and inciting others to disobey court orders and breach the law".

He added: "The sentence should also emphasise the duty of the court to ensure respect for, and obedience of, its orders and also the duty to promote proper administration of justice."

Acting Judge Parker said he was accepting that the convicted five have, in affidavits filed with the court, apologised to the court and given an undertaking to not do anything that could amount to contempt of court again.

Their wilfully disobedient conduct in the face of a court order was a serious matter, as it goes to the root of the proper administration of justice and the dignity of the court, he said.

Lawyer Sisa Namandje represented Government and the minister of education during the proceedings before Acting Judge Parker. Steve Rukoro represented the respondents.

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